Many a school report was researched and written here.

When I was a kid, and you needed to write a report on the Northern Rough-Winged Swallow, Egyptian pharaohs or life in Colonial America you had one of two options. You either broke open the set of encyclopedias you were lucky enough to own, or you did what I did – you headed to the library.

The Leonia Public library – I can still remember the smell of that place. It was situated in Wood Park – the park and the library shared a parking lot, and let me tell you, that was a major distraction. Who wanted to research Martin Luther when you could swing on the monkey bars!

There was a children’s library where I spent many hours in my itty bitty days, and where I would seek out the same book over and over again. “The Little House” by Virginia Lee Burton was my all time favorite book. It was the simple story of a cute little country house who over the course of time gets swallowed up by urban sprawl. The story was simple, but the pictures, oh, the pictures! They were filled with details that kept your eyes darting all over the page to see what each person, bird, cow, and tree where up to. I still manage to peek at the book every time I am in the kid’s section at Barnes & Noble waiting for my indecisive daughter.

Once I grew too old for the kid’s section in the library, I graduated to the main room, with it’s many tables, chairs and rows and rows of books. Our library was small in comparison to some of the larger towns around us, but it was the place to be if you needed to research something for school. And you would see classmates doing the same – which ones you saw depended on how diligent or lazy you were in getting your report done. If you were getting an early start, you saw the kids who got straight A’s busily researching their topic. If you had dragged your feet and had the weekend to get your work done, you ran into the class of students who didn’t care quite so much about their grades.

If you didn’t feel like spending hours and hours reading and copying notes at the library, you could bring a pocketful of nickels and dimes and use the library’s photocopier. Then you could take home the pages from the reference books you needed and do your report in the comfort of your kitchen or living room. This was the optimum method, but a bit of a luxury. Remember, back then a dime could buy you a bag of dipsy doodles, so spending that much on a Xerox was somewhat of an extravagance.

I also recall that there was a night book deposit slot on the side of the library, and I will shamefully admit that I crammed more than one tuna fish sandwich down that chute.

And let’s not forget microfiche. Nothing sucked more than when you needed to research something that had been stored on microfiche. What a pain in the ass. You had to ask the librarian for the correct film, and then ask the her to help you load it because the last time you needed to view microfiche was 3 years ago, and you have forgotten how to use the machine.

But nowadays, you don’t need the library to do your research anymore. My kids are so freakin’ lucky – the internet gives them 150 times the amount of information my childhood library had right at their fingertips. I can remember when a book you needed wasn’t at our library…then you had to have your mom take you to one of the bigger libraries in Hackensack or Englewood – where you felt horribly out of place amongst that town’s students doing their research for their reports.

I still take my kids to the library, but not as often as I should. Usually the borrowed books get misplaced among the books my kids actually own by a husband that cleans without paying attention. Before I know it, they are due and I can’t find them. I’m sure the fines I’ve paid over the past 10 years helped pay for one wing of our county’s new library.

The last time I was in my hometown, I actually walked into the library. Things had changed a bit. The children’s library had moved downstairs, and they had more tables and chairs. But it was still as quiet and cool as it was in my youth, and had that same smell to it…with a slight hint tuna fish.

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