How I Got My First Library Card

I grew up in a family that was filled with voracious readers. From the time my brothers and sister and I were very, very young, we heard our parents reading to us and telling us stories of when they were young.

I fell in love with words and letters as far back as I could remember. I found it fascinating to watch Mom and Dad simply look down at an open book and then hear as this steady flow of words and sentences and paragraphs and stories would flow out of their mouths.

At that time, I didn’t have the necessary words I needed to describe what I was feeling, but I could see that my parents had the key to unlock this amazing mystery, and I yearned, almost ached to discover the secret so I could do the same thing.

My mom loved to tell the story about when my sister Barb and I first got our library cards.

I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and our family made regular trips to the Boise Public Library, which I later learned was one of the Carnegie libraries. It sat on the outskirts of the downtown business area, its entrance just one block west, as the crow flies, from the entrance to the church we attended. The children's department was partly below ground level, and had its own separate entrance on the south side of the building—concrete steps leading down from the sidewalk that circled from the front of the building, where the grown-up steps went up to the front entrance.

For local residents the only requirement to get a library card was to write your name on the form. (I imagine you also had to show some form of ID, but Mom’s library card apparently probably covered Barb and me.) I was about four years old and, as I’ve indicated, already deeply fascinated with letters. (We had a small framed blackboard with an attached tripod, letters surrounding the frame—probably in alphabetical order. I loved copying the letters from the frame onto the blackboard in different combinations, then asking Mom if I had written a word. As I remember, considering that I wrote random combinations, I had a fair amount of success. Perhaps I was already starting to associate the shape of letters with sound.)

After we had entered the children's department, Barb and I walked up to the circulation desk with Mom and told the children's librarian that we wanted to get our library cards. Mom filled in our address and other information, and then put the forms in front of Barb and me.

My mind was already attuning itself to the nuances of language, especially when it came to how rules were laid out. I had discussed my idea with Mom, so after the librarian told us all we had to do was write our names, she was rather surprised when Barb and I each reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper upon which Mom had printed our name.

With great care I spread the paper flat on the counter and then, with painstaking focus, copied the letters of my name onto the form.

The librarian got a big, big smile and told Mom she had never known of any children who had wanted a library card as much as we did.

From then on there was no stopping us.