"And so began a love story, with Joanne and with Lillian H. Smith library. The elation of that first love carried us for years."
I remember an article celebrating the architecture of Lillian H. Smith library when it first opened. I liked the building, but I didn’t start to find it thrilling until my daughter was born and we became regulars. Emma got her first library card when she was about three months old; a librarian suggested I sign her up. I laughed, but I signed her up nevertheless. It wasn’t long before we were going weekly to Theo’s baby program and taking out books. I loved the ritual of songs and reading, watching my daughter’s skills develop as she participated more and more. We stayed long after Emma reached the upper age limit. I told my husband we’d have to move on or have another baby. We did both (twins!)
Joanne’s toddler class was wonderful. Emma sat rapt at the front, trying to get next to Joanne to throw the beanbag (and catch), hoping to take the books Joanne read home. The last day of class Emma picked a daisy from our garden, carefully hanging onto it all the way to the library and through the class. Finally, she shyly gave it to Joanne. My Emma, who was normally quiet and restrained, raced around the bookshelves that day, round and round in a frenzy of energy.
And so began a love story, with Joanne and with Lillian H. Smith library. The elation of that first love carried us for years. “How was it?” I’d ask my husband upon his return from the library. “Oh, you know,’ he’d shrug, smiling, “love!” “Lillian Smith is like my second home,” my now eleven-year old told me the other day. I smiled, remembering moments, all the book recommendations, the time spent exploring, loafing, with the passage from section to section marking time: first the board book section, then up and down, up and down the spiral staircase, then the easy-to-read section, across the hall to the comic books, discovered delightedly by my boys, after science and cookbooks...
Lillian H. Smith, with its high ceilings, its chandeliers, its secret places, the lions that guard its doors—it’s the library I dreamt of when I was a kid. How fortunate I am to experience it with my children.