My first library was the grammar school library original to the public school built in 1924. When our teacher prepared us for our first visit, her voice was bright with more than enthusiasm: the trip from classroom to library would be a serious adventure; she made us understand that we were entitled visitors who would, of course, behave beautifully.
It was a surprise and a shock to follow her into rooms so different from our plain classroom. The library was richly paneled in dark wood. There were ample tables, the temperature comfortably cool, the shelves filled with many books, all for us. Though I didn’t yet know the word “browse,” browse is what we did. Our teacher gladly taught us. I learned about “checking out,” and “due date.” I brought a book to the desk and watched the clerk write the due date on a white card and slip it into a pocket inside the back cover before releasing the book to me.
Since that initiation, I’ve become a regular visitor to libraries, really an habitué of libraries. Some, especially Robbins Library, have the allure of that first library. For the forty-four years I lived in Arlington the Robbins was a vital destination – from the circulation desk, to the splendid reading room, to the reference desk, to the stacks, to the table overlooking the beehive-balcony, to the top-floor conference room, the scene of poetry workshops, to the community room and the children’s room. And always there were helpful librarians and staff.
Now in Concord, New Hampshire, I carry a card to the public library, steps from my house. Like the Robbins, Concord Public Library is an actual place on an actual street. In both libraries there are children; in both, materials for the asking.
-Miriam Levine, Former Arlington Resident