Iowa Impressions: The Public Library

What’s a “World Book?” Mama – look, they’re free.  What are they?  My daughter pointed to the book sale-shelf that held cornflower-colored World Book Encyclopedias on it.  The paper sign crumpled with time and humidity read “FREE” in blue marker and was taped to the shelf.

I proceeded to explain that the internet didn’t exist when her dad and I were her age.  Oh my word – did I just say that?  Yep – not only is it hard for some of us to admit we are old enough to say phrases like that, but it’s really hard for our kids to imagine a world without all the technology.  Even when we visit a historical site or explain that cell phones weren’t a thing for regular folks to have, I see the doubtful eyebrows emerge as they half-heartedly accept what I am saying.

Additionally, what makes these topics challenging to explain, is that her attention span just isn’t always there.  What is the average attention span for a youngster?  No idea.  I don’t have the time to look it up. Yet, being young once, I know it sucks to listen to a parent drone on about something. I used to dread the lengthy explanations one of my parents would dole when I asked a question.  I know I tuned out a lot of good info….

At any rate, I explained to my kid that if we wanted to know something we didn’t, and needed facts, we went to the library.  If you were lucky, your folks bought a set of encyclopedias, usually in phases as they were so expensive.  I realized how funny this all sounded to her, yet I persevered.  “Yeah, so we had to go to the library for the more up-to-date encyclopedias and books.  Ours were old, like from your grandfather’s time, but Daddy had current ones.”

Thus ended our first trip to the West Branch Public Library, as we walked out of the vestibule. The library was really the intent of today’s blog.  My friend Jenny asked me to drop a note about life in Iowa, and since it’s been two months since we moved here, I think it’s time for an installment.  Jenny likes to read, so the library seems like a good start.

The public library, like all amenities in West Branch, is within walking distance from our home.  I cannot express enough how awesome it is to live in a small town (less than 4,000) and work in the same town, and not have to start the car(s) every day, several times a day, just to live our daily life.  It has been fantastic.   Peanut and I walked the two blocks up (yes, Iowa is not flat; in fact, it is rather hilly in some towns) to the library.  What. A. Fantastic. Place!

Truthfully, though, I don’t think I have ever met a library I didn’t like.  This one was no exception.  I loved how the children’s area had tables and chairs that were heavy and wooden, akin to the school library in my own memories.  A patron can check-out Kindle e-readers, movies, audio books, books, use the computers, and read periodicals.  There is a quiet room, glass enclosed, with red couches and chairs. Oil paintings from the NPS’s Artist-in-Residence Program adorn the walls.

Peanut checked out two books and we chose three for Pumpkin. (He is becoming more rambunctious as he approaches the age of four, so we left him home with Hubs). I found myself checking one out for Hubs “All Joy and No Fun – the Paradox of Modern Parenting”.  Eeegads!  That sounds awful, but I was drawn to it. I think this will be an interesting read.

So aside from the friendly library assistant, the fact that it is open seven days a week, that there is a book sale area, a ton of programs for the summer for children and adults of all ages, there is also a genius way for children to pay library fines: they can read them off instead of paying money.  Their minutes count instead of money, encouraging the children to keep on reading.

As part of my gratitude journey these past three years, I can’t help but fall in love with all the normal things I used to expect (or demand).  Now I see how awesome it truly is to walk to the library, or have an hour with my daughter, or share in a community experience like a library, and even leave with a scratch ‘n’ sniff book mark.  What an awesome way to spend a Saturday afternoon.