by Maggie Wollman
I’ve written before about my feelings on the importance of the public library. Growing up in the Bronx, after-school activities were jump rope, stoop ball and going to the library. While the library was across a wide street, it was only two blocks from my apartment, a nothing trip for a New Yorker.
When my husband and I bought our house in Mt. Airy many years ago, part of the attraction was the proximity to the library, supermarket and the State Store. All three assets remain.
I am a reader with an agenda. I do not browse the shelves but have a list of books culled from newspaper book reviews, the New York Times Book Review, obituaries and recommendations from friends. These I reserve on the library computer. Some time later, be it days, a week or a month, I receive a telephone call. A deep male voice says, “Mar-jor-ie Woll-man.”
I don’t have to listen to the rest. It is the library telling me my book is at Lovett. It’s with excitement that I stand at the library turnstile and look for my book, conspicuous because on its spine is a label with the first four letters of my last name.
I can immediately judge how many pages: 250, 400, 500. Will it take days or a week to read? Since I don’t remember what I reserved, I’m excited. Will it be a novel, a biography or memoir, a travel or food book or a mystery, or an author I’ve never met but who promises to give me the inside scoop on working in a hotel or restaurant or insight into a business or organization?
The anticipation is real. What’s ahead for me this next week? I’m never disappointed. If the book doesn’t grab me, I use my speed-reading skills to move along quickly. Every book is an introduction into a different world. I don’t need a boat, plane or rocket to travel, just skillful writers.
I recently enjoyed reading about the monumental task of building Rockefeller Center and the fabulous character who ran United Fruit.
With books costing $20 or more, I’d be spending over $1,000 a year for books which, once read, I don’t care to keep. Simply by paying my taxes, I have the opportunity to read any book published because if the Philadelphia library system doesn’t shelve the book I want, it will contact other systems and universities for me. I don’t know any organization more accommodating . . . when it’s open.
Maggie Wollman is a long-time resident of Mt. Airy and a member of the Lovett Library Writers Group.