For as long as I can remember I have found peace in libraries. Just the idea of them makes me smile. My earliest memory of being in a library is from when I was a young child, around four years old, in the town of Franklin, Tennessee. The War Memorial Public Library was housed in a historic Victorian house in the downtown area of what was then a small city of about ten thousand people. I remember walking into the main room and seeing a large, dark-wood desk occupied by a matronly librarian who greeted me with a friendly smile. I remember that the children’s books were in a room to the right, which was filled, floor-to-ceiling with closely spaced shelves of books and the worlds they contained. It smelled old in there and was always kind of dark, with light entering mainly through the large windows on one side of the room. This lent an air of mysteriousness and I always felt like I was on an adventure, an intrepid explorer alone among the aisles of books that dwarfed me. I remember being a little anxious and maybe even a little frightened, but I loved the feel of the books in my hand. The excitement of getting to choose a pile of them to take home, as many as I could carry, was stronger than my fears. I felt empowered.

When I reflect on it now, I realize that these trips to the library must have been just as important to my mother as they were to me. She was and still is a voracious reader, and was always in the middle of numerous books, which were scattered throughout the rooms of our house. I have always admired her ability to pick one up and read a few pages in the interstices of her busy day, grasping onto moments of escape wherever she could find them as an effectively single mother, nursing student, and homemaker in the early 1970s. There were four of us and I was the “baby” by six years, which meant that I was privileged to spend time with her and do things that she didn’t have the time to do with my older brothers and sister, who were all spaced a couple of years apart. While they were in school, we sometimes got to do special things like going to the library.

Sitting alone among the stacks, pulling a book off the shelf to see what was inside, reading some of it right there to see if it was worthy of taking home to read again and again…I still get the same excitement from it today as I did when I was four years old. That same profound sense of peace and possibility comforts me every time I enter a library, and I still do it every chance I get.

– Lauren Eastland (PhD Candidate, University of California, Davis)