At the library – Literally!

The blog prompt for this week’s 52 Ancestors challenge is “At the library.” I planned on writing about my connection to all things “library-ish,” but I found myself actually at the largest library in the world on Saturday – the Library of Congress in Washington, DC!

Scott and I drove into DC this weekend to deliver some items I’m donating to the National Building Museum (I’ll be writing about that in my next post!) After visiting several really interesting exhibits at the NBM, we found ourselves with some extra time. We were with our sister-in-law, Wendy, who suggested we might enjoy visiting the Library of Congress. Check out the biggest library in the world? Yes, thank you!! (Not to mention how well matched that was to this week’s prompt!)

Coincidentally, I had just completed a webinar[1] about doing research in Washington, so it was also a good opportunity to put some of my new learning into practice. What an amazing building! I won’t go into the details here, as you can visit the LOC website yourself to learn more about it.[2]  But I will share some photos Scott took.

Looking up at the largest library in the world –
The Library of Congress!
Wouldn’t you just love to spend
the day in this Reading Room?

Now on to my “originally scheduled” blog subject for this week:

I Could Have Been a Librarian

I always loved books. I remember reading by flashlight under my covers, long past my supposed bedtime. My mother never was concerned about my lack of sleep, but she definitely didn’t appreciate the cracker crumbs found in my bed after a night of reading-snacking!

Notice I wrote, “I always loved books.” Not “I always loved reading.” I did love to read but I as I got older (and busier) I found myself reading less and less. On the flip side, my fondness for books remained constant. Coupled with my passion for collecting, it’s not surprising that I own a lot of books. Unlike George Vanderbilt (of Biltmore Mansion fame), who read an average of 81 books a year, I haven’t read most of the books I own.[3] I just like collecting them!!

As a child, I created a “traveling library.” I would pile my books in a wagon and pull them around my neighborhood, lending the books to the neighbor kids. And, yes, I cataloged them! I taped little numbers to the spines and made a card catalog in order to keep track of my books. Each book had a scrap of paper taped inside the back cover where I would use the date stamp my mom bought me to stamp the return date for my “patrons.” I’m pretty sure I also had a fine system set up for those late returns!

In high school, I was a member of the Library Club.

That’s me in the front row – the “shortie” in the center!
I remember that outfit – I made it from wide-wale brown
corduroy. Stylin’ !

But at some point, I decided on a career as a high scho
ol English teacher rather than become a librarian. I don’t even remember how I came to change my mind on that. I do, however, vividly remember why I decided against being an English teacher. I was sitting in my freshman English class at Southern Connecticut State College, now Southern Connecticut State University. The professor was going on and on, asking us “Why did the author (of some story… ) write about a red rose? Why did the author choose red? Why not choose a different color?” All I could think was “Who friggin’ cares what color the rose was?” Then I thought, “This is so boring! There is no way I can do this the rest of my life!!” 

And, that was the end of my dream of becoming a really cool English teacher. I wasn’t going to be like Mr. Kotter, from the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter! Or even like Mr. Gerosa, the super-cool English teacher at our local high school.

While my passion for “deep-reading” never materialized, my love of books endured. In a fruitless attempt to inspire the same love of books in my students, I followed a suggestion from a workshop I attended; share your favorite books with your students—show them the books, tell them why these books are so important to you. According to the workshop presenter, your passion will become infectious and your students will be inspired to find favorite books of their own. Um. Nope.

Maybe it was my selection of books that left them less than enthused. Let me share them with you:

Slovenly Peter: This is actually a translated version of Der Struwelpeter, a book of German cautionary tales for children. The stories are actually quite frightening, featuring children who don’t do as told and suffer horrible consequences!

The book at the lower right is Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Writing this I realize this book has a theme quite similar to Slovenly Peter. The book contains short stories about stubborn children. The one that sticks in my memory is the little girl who wouldn’t take a bath. She became so dirty, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle planted radishes on her!

A more pleasant book is I Can Fly. Not only does this book tell the story of a little girl who could be anything she wanted, but there was also a song to sing printed inside!

Three of my favorite books from my childhood

My Book Collections

Many of the books from my childhood were lost in a flood in my mother’s basement. I brought home the “survivors” and added them to the books I collected as an adult. Over the years, I have put together several different book collections. Sadly, as often happens, a few have been sitting in boxes for years. This is a great opportunity for me to review these collections and begin to think about dispersing my “hoard.” For now, I’ll settle for simply listing the categories. In the future, I’ll take Marian Burk Wood’s advice and begin indexing them.[4] (As a good “librarian” should 😉) Should any of these appeal to you, let me know! I’m ready to let them go!! Lists furnished upon request!!🤣

Antique Textbooks – all earlier than 1900

Some of my antique schoolbooks
are housed on this shelf in our dining room.
The little figure on the top shelf (far left) is a
character from Der Struwelpeter

Reading Books from the 1960s

We used to call these basal readers.
These are the books those of us “of a certain age”
used in grammar school.

Dollhouse and doll books

These represent only about 10% of the dollhouse books I own.

Little Golden Books
It will fun going through this box! Lots of memories!!

Books belonging to my Ancestors, My Favorite Childhood Books
and Antique Children’s books

Books in these categories are scattered among various
shelves. Here’s a nice view of an area that
needs serious organizing!
 Books from Our Daughters’ Childhood Days
When our kids were little, we belonged to at least three different book clubs. The books on the far right are from the Sweet Pickles book club. If I remember correctly, there was a plastic bus you could store them in!

Just two boxes of books belonging to our daughters.
There’s at least four more! 
I have no idea how many more there are on shelves!

Read Me a Book, Omi?

Jack’s current favorites.
My four-year-old grandson shares my love of books. (His mom is a reader as well!) Whenever I visit, one of our favorite pastimes is for me to read to him. I swear that boy could listen to stories for hours! Recently, we discovered that we can have a very effective story-time session even 2000 miles away using FaceTime. I now have a little stash of books ready for whenever he calls. (Of course, from the books I saved from our girls’ childhoods.) 

There’s something really special about knowing he loves the same stories I read to his mom 30 years earlier. It’s a little tricky holding the phone over the book’s page (so Jack can see the illustrations) and reading as I go along, but it works fairly well. Our last session lasted about 40 minutes and included 5 books! I had to finally call an end because: 1) my phone battery was dying and 2) I really had to pee!

In a few weeks, I’ll be visiting another sister-in-law who is a real librarian. We will be going through my box of Little Golden Books – such fun!!!! Maybe she will volunteer to catalog my collection!!
This is the 5th post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. This year, I am focusing on telling the story of “Our Stuff.”