Stacks used to be a part of every library. They were the back room storage for those books that were no longer popular enough to rate a space on the public bookshelves, but were still requested enough, or good enough, to warrant storing them for future use. Now here’s the problem: in most libraries the only way to access the stacks was to request a specific book. You’d write the name on a piece of paper and hand it to a librarian and a bit later your book would appear. Sort of magically. But suppose you didn’t know what you wanted? There they were, all the popular books of yesterday, waiting for you but you couldn’t reach them. They were guarded by dragons.
But the Lucas County Library had open stacks.
I would go there sometimes after work and wander. Books that people had forgotten, books that no one had checked out in years. Good books, great reads, all sitting there. Out of print. Yesterday’s bestsellers. Waiting for me.
Read Spoonhandle. If you can find it. It was published in 1946. I found a copy in a used bookstore about five years ago and it is part of my permanent library. If I find myself down to my last hundred books, that one will be there. And she wrote so many more; books I can’t find now. Maybe because I no longer live in Lucas County.
This was my first library. When I was little and had just discovered the joy of reading, of books, my mother would take us to the library every few weeks. I didn’t know. I thought all libraries had wood floors with matching bookshelves. I thought I would always be able to choose a promising book and take it outside to read on the grass, under a tree, before even checking it out. I thought all libraries had big windows that stood open on nice days, blowing a breeze and the smell of fresh-mown grass across you as you found stories to take you far beyond Ohio, and Lucas County.
But that library was unique. I didn’t know it then but my love for libraries was fostered in one that was the best I’ve ever experienced. As a child for the freedom it gave me, and as an adult for the pleasure of discovering new/old authors and their books through browsing the stacks.
I fell in love, and the Lucas County Library was my first.