I balanced an armload of books as I left the Friends of the Abington Community Library Book Sale Saturday morning, struggling to keep from dropping them while fishing in my purse for keys. It was a comical sight, if anyone was watching.
Especially since the keys were in my pocket.
But I wasn’t the only one departing from the Clarks Summit United Methodist Church with arms full. The parking lot and building were packed with people shoulder-to-shoulder browsing the rows of hardcovers, paperbacks, DVDs, children’s titles and more.
I do my best to always make it to this fundraiser, and I’m amazed every time at the attendance. During this age of technology, I’m surprised to see so many people eagerly digging through the piles of used books in search of treasure.
It’s like a department store on Black Friday, minus the pushing and shoving.
The Dalton Community Library’s Book and Bake Sale is also well-attended. (The next one, for those interested, is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the library, 113 E. Main St. in Dalton.)
All of this tells me that people still enjoy holding a book in their hands and turning real pages, and that libraries will be around for a long time and are still worth supporting. While libraries continue to adapt to the changing times, in other ways they remain the same. Like their patrons.
I still have my first library card, signed on the back by my eight-year-old self. I got it from the Lackawanna County Library system soon after my family moved here. It saw a lot of use.
Libraries were my favorite places to go when I was a kid. Where else could I pick out anything I wanted to bring home, the only limitation being my ability to carry it out the door?
And I know I’m not alone. Saturday afternoon I asked my Facebook friends to share their favorite memories involving libraries, and more than 20 people responded.
Some friends, including Darlene Catlett, reminisced about encounters with specific books.
“I remember standing in the stacks at the Ontario City Library in California when I was in fourth grade,” she wrote. “I was looking for a book with a certain page count for a school assignment and I found ‘Onion John.’ The cover wasn’t super exciting, but I ended up loving the book. That taught me that you really cannot judge a book by its cover.”
Deby Russell remembered the closet-sized library at her elementary school in the late 60s.
“I read every book there,” she wrote. “The things I remember best are the smell of the mimeograph machine and how that blue ink got all over everything.”
She also remembers reading “The Boxcar Children,” which was a favorite of mine as well. And discovering “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank.
She referred to those times as “wonderful days of adventure and real education.”
“And blue hands.”
Stephanie Goldyn has good memories of making the giant papier-mâché snake at the Dalton Community Library.
Renee Axtell talked about the “fun times” she had taking her sons to the Abington Community Library when they were young.
“When my boys were little they used to beg to go the Abington library,” she wrote. “Josh would sit on the floor with the same book for hours. Luke wouldn’t touch a book but made a beeline to the blocks. Sean thought it was cool to dump every book off the shelves just to create a huge pile to sit in the middle of all the chaos.”
Some people said their first jobs were at libraries. Some joked about losing books or not returning them and incurring fines. Others described the excitement of the local bookmobile coming to town.
“Because we lived out in the country, we were visited by the Bookmobile once a month during the summer,” wrote Sylinda Alfred. “It was always a red letter day, and there would be a dozen or more of us, kids and adults waiting for its arrival. I always asked the librarian how many I could take out, and she always told me as many as I wanted. I would take out at least a dozen. When the Bookmobile returned the next month I would have them all read and took out another stack as large as I could carry.”
As I left Saturday’s sale with a stack almost as large as I could carry, I remembered my own days of checking out piles of picture books, which my mom read to me before bed.
As I grew older, the picture books turned into chapter books, and later they were replaced by novels.
But the excitement never really wore off.
And I hope it never does.