My library was a school of fish.


In the acknowledgement pages of SOPHIE REDESIGNED I pay tribute to librarians.  This is not to win favor so they put my book on their shelves; it is to point out the virtues of what sometimes seems like an endangered institution.

When I worked alongside Tucson’s librarians in the 1970s, their biggest supporters seemed to be older women with time on their hands to read.  The user profiles gradually changed.  Not long after our new Main Library opened, street people found out about the couches.  More significantly, librarians found out about the rising rate of illiteracy.  Eventually, special programs were instituted for teenagers.  Some people here remember canoodling in the mezzanine stacks of the old main library in the 1950s.  If you don’t know what “canoodling” means, ask a librarian to help you search online. It’s faster than looking in a dictionary, and therein lies the problem.

Introducing toddlers to physical books in “Story Hour” remains a critical path to the future of library buildings.


My mother, even in winter, regularly walked me downtown to our public library (about eight blocks from home in our small Wisconsin city).  Besides books, one of the main attractions was a cardboard playhouse covered in book jackets, inside and out.  The library also had a special feature outside, a classically designed pond with gigantic “goldfish” that would swim to the surface to greet us.  I even imagine they might have peered at us curiously through the ice.  Today that library is gone, and I grieve because it was a lovely Beaux Arts Carnegie Free Library with columns and statues and concrete benches in a generous garden setting on a riverbank.

This reminiscence has a hidden agenda.  Actually, two.  In the 1970s the Tucson library system, thanks to the National Endowment for the Humanities Learning Library Program, provided free programs and learning packets on nine major topics, one of which was “Family.”  Since our community has a high proportion of transplants, we decided the learning packet would be Making Connections: A Family History Workbook, a sequence of exercises to put our own lives in the context of national history.  (In my story above I could have pointed out it was during World War II and we didn’t have a car or TV.)  Making Connections was a huge success because it was storytelling, not just lists of names, and it took little effort to write one anecdote at a time.

Later in 2010, you will find on this website a link to Tumbleweeds: A Moving Story.  It will help you make a record of your lifetime of adventures.  Also, it will urge you to go to your public library for historical documentation of what you may only vaguely recall.  Please take a grandchild with you.

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