So I drove the streets of Tucson, looking for a library. The one I knew about is closed for renovations. I had to stop into a used book store to ask where another might be. "Just go north on 1st Avenue" was the less than helpful advice I received. How far north? Do you know the cross street? Is it on the east or the west side? All of those questions were beyond his ken. Following an 18-wheeler across town is not conducive to searching for a building of unknown location or size or shape or name, yet somehow I manage to avoid rear-ending him as the Woods Memorial Library appeared on the horizon.
There's a lovely parking lot with a tree to shade the Schnozz and a very helpful Information Desk librarian who signed me in. The chair isn't too comfy, but I only have 30 minutes to type .... how sore can I get? I had another idea for a post in mind, but it can wait until tomorrow. For now, share the scene here with me:
There are 6 eighth grade girls hovering over the terminal next to mine, all of whom have used their hands as memo pads. They are blonde and brown and slim and overweight, with curly hair and headbands and long straight locks cascading down their backs. There's one boy on the computer next to them, and he's enjoying their ignoring him.
The Cambodian kid next to me has his IPhone on the countertop. I know he's Cambodian because his ring is a "Cambodian pop song"... or so he told me when it began to sing and travel into my space.
Someone is sneezing, loudly and often, on the other side of the reading room. No one is saying "Bless You." I'm thinking it, but this is a quiet zone and it feels inappropriate to say it loudly enough for him to hear.
The 6th grade boys behind me are checking their Facebook status while sitting with absolutely perfect posture. They have t-shirts and new sneakers and I do wonder if they have homework to finish. The 8th graders next to me have moved to showing photos of their families to one another; they all have nieces and nephews. What they don't have is a proper sense of respect for the silence which ought to be de rigeur.
There's a volunteer in the computer area, a young man with a huge key ring and a helpful manner. My screen went dark, and before I could get up to ask why he was at my side, pressing the on/off switch and restoring my post. He vanished before I could thank him. I'm wondering where he is as these girls get louder and louder.
A four year old with a brand new buzz cut is playing on the Catalog Use Only terminal his grown-up (a grandfather, perhaps) is checking his Facebook status. Though I doubt that he can read, he's doing a pretty good imitation of a person looking for a specific book. He's aping behaviors he's seen before, and the volunteer has appeared at his side. He's smiling as the youngster looks up at him for approval.
There are some middle-aged adults asleep in comfy chairs, and several serious scholars using their own laptops on the desks under the windows, but I have definitely landed in a middle-school zone.When we built our community library in Marin, I insisted that there be a group project room for young teens. Rather than taking over my dining room, I thought they'd be better off working in a public space, where research materials were available and professionals could answer questions. Watching these kids roam the aisles here after school, I'm reminded of just exactly what a good idea that was.
I studied and flirted in the library. I pretended to be Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, reading all the books from A to Z. I fondled the card catalog and skimmed the magazines and I fit in just like the grown-ups did. It felt safe and it had all the answers and there was nothing I needed that wasn't there.
It's nice to know that some things just haven't changed over time.