After making airline reservations for a visit to my childhood hometown planned later this year, I began thinking about all the places I wanted to see again.
There’s the hospital where I was born, and the two homes I remember living in until I was 14. I’ll also drive by the location where my parents had after they married.
Later, that small, starter home served as a church’s Boy Scout hut. My personal involvement in Scouting was short-lived, but my father volunteered several years as that troop’s Scoutmaster. Mother made us promise not to tell anyone we had previously lived there.
Sorry, Mom, it just made the internet.
Eventually, that building was demolished so the church could expand its facilities. That was OK. We attended that church.
Several other places come to mind: The elementary and junior high schools I attended. The house my parents were going to buy before Dad was transferred to New Mexico. And most definitely, the public library where I spent so much time in the summers.
May Memorial Library was the downtown library in the city where I grew up. During previous return visits, that library didn’t appear nearly as large as it did to a 12-year-old. I remember it as being magnificent, with wide stairways, replicas of famous sculptures, and all those inviting books. The children’s section was on a lower level, and that’s where I spent my time choosing books to take home.
I drove from the library to where we lived, and it seemed impossible that my parents would allow me to ride my bicycle that far. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.
Perhaps it’s coincidence, but on Monday I saw an article reporting that this is National Library Week. “It’s a great time to remind yourself of all your library has to offer,” says the story. That holds true any week of year, but maybe some people need a reason to celebrate.
The theme for the week is an appropriate one: “Libraries equal Strong Communities.”
But I don’t need to travel across several states to have an amazing library experience. I just need to travel a couple of miles to our own library on Carnegie in downtown Brownwood.
I frequently visit the Brownwood Public Library’s Local History and Genealogical branch, but since I retired from the newspaper next door, I’ve been an infrequent visitor to the main building. I fixed that this week.
If you haven’t been lately, you are overdue.
Yes, they’ve got books — plenty of books — but there’s much more. You can’t afford subscriptions to several dozen newspapers and magazines? The library has you covered. Some are even in Spanish. I saw computers where youngsters were being tutored. In a front corner, you’ll even find DVDs to check out. Ask about the library’s DVD cleaning service. There’s even a seed bank utilizing the drawers that once held the card catalog. The former cards have gone digital.
But if you think computers and the internet have replaced libraries, think again.
It’s gratifying to see that children are a priority at Brownwood Public Library, just as they were in my hometown library growing up. Parents will find many things for youngsters to do while they enjoy the library. And remember, library summers are always special.
Perhaps six decades from now, children who’ve moved away will also return and relive those happy hours spent at their Brownwood library. I hope so.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.