BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
Vacation: vacation refers to recreation, a get away from day-to-day chores to devote time specifically for relaxation; it can be ritual, annually around the same time, or it can be a one-time event [going to Paris for a wedding anniversary, for example]. It is a holiday…
Is summer really over? Perhaps so, if one goes to a public library recently to see posters similar to this: “Summer Reading Program a Success.”
In agrarian America, most family vacations occur during the summer, while the crops are growing and time for getting away is possible. School is out, often near the end of June, to include July and most of August. Some school districts begin “fall” classes in early August; some wait until after Labor Day.
In the UK, school days often begin in early September, with calendars for holidays similar to those in the US: Christmas and Easter, and Spring Breaks.
However, there is something about vacation-time: summer reading programs, mobile libraries in small-towns, Minnesota. For many, summer is the time for reading. Probably because required readings of books and chapters and notes do not exist. It is Summer Reading Time.
I am a reader. Summer or not. But summer was really the time I enjoyed for choosing activities for myself. And choosing the books I wanted to read, liked to read (though I did receive a summer-reading list at the end of the school year. Nevertheless, I could still choose from the lists and lists.).
For the past nine summers, I have had a “vacation”: a retirement of sorts. But I lived and loved and enjoyed the local library. (Barnesville Hutton Memorial Public Library is affiliated with the library system that serves Barnesville, Ohio. The collection of the library contains some 74,000 volumes; the library serves a population of more than 7800 residents.)
What occurred to me of late was how much more time I spent on vacation–and in the library–than I did use the local library when I was at home. This is like being back in school: vacation-time reading, summer-time reading programs.
And I love libraries in the summer.
“See Spot. See him run. Run, Spot, run.”
That was early elementary reading, and it was “elementary.” And so it goes/went. Then I discovered Ogden Park Library, on the South Side of Chicago. Along with the summer Park Rec rec program (swimming, weaving, and that stuff), there existed the park library: That was the center of my summer life, riding there from home or swimming class, exploring the shelves, checking out books. Checking out books. Checking out books. Heaven.
Postcard Pic: Chuckman’s
Other libraries that sucked me in, tasted me, chewed me up, digested me–those Francis Bacon’s books he wrote about– I remember so well, in summer, doing research, walking the stacks (something not often allowed now in many larger libraries), checking out books–or simply just losing myself at a table, surrounded with books.
Chicago’s Newberry Public Library:
Chicago Public Library [old building on Michigan Boulevard]:
I had a bicycle stolen in Ogden Park in front of the library. In such a hurry to drop off books so they would not be over-due, I did not chain up the bike. In that short in-and-out time, my bike was stolen; it was recovered and returned to me (most of it) a year later. What a sad library memory.
I worked in my high school library (mostly dusting shelves–though I have a good yearbook picture of me in the stacks); I worked in my college library (mostly dusting shelves and books). Yet I wrote graduate papers (for Milton and Shakespeare courses) in the library of the University of Minnesota–during my summer “vacation” time.
Not many years ago, for three summer “vacation” times, I was so fortunate to be in Cambridge, England. The main “big” library was not open to summer students (except practically by Papal decree or a letter from the Queen). But no matter, I was in the summer-school library, walking the aisles, touching the volumes and volumes, doing research on the aorist tense of Greek, used by James Joyce in his short story “The Dead”!
I can hum “Marian, madam librarian” from The Music Man–often. I’ve got trouble, right here–in love with books and libraries.
And now, September, then November–and summer is over. “Vacation”? I know I can have everything I need now through the Internet. I don’t need summer.
But walking the stacks, touching the volumes and their spines, smelling the books. And, as in The Music Man, having a librarian, like Marian, checking out my books. That’s what love has got to do with it. I love libraries.
© James F. O’Neil 2014