It was a small library back then, brick painted over with white to give it a facelift well after its 70th birthday. I remember thinking about how the two-room public library had to be magical, with little elves coming out from behind the towering stacks each night.
Why magical? Because books transport us all — as if by magic carpet or a bewitched wardrobe — to other worlds, to explore new things, new ideas; to meet new people and creatures.
Books are magic.
To a farm girl whose dad worked at the only factory in town, money got tight sometimes, and buying shelves of books wasn’t an option for my hard-working parents. So, the library was the place to be for a child with a big imagination and a love for the written word, a love that was fostered years before I could read myself.
Skip forward three decades, and it seems my affair with words has turned into a passion, a vocation and a way to influence others.
Usually we write our opinions as the editorial board, but I felt so strongly about this particular topic that I chose to write a column instead. I am a believer in the power of libraries, and the power of books.
These days, libraries provide so much more as they’ve had to adapt to our constantly evolving world to provide computer access, classes, seminars, activities, audio-visual materials and e-books.
Perhaps now, more than ever, access to libraries serves as an equalizer for all people. They provide access to the world for those who may not have computers at home. They allow children to borrow books they might not otherwise ever be able to read. They provide guidance and resources to adults seeking information about finance, genealogy or potential careers. They are the heartbeat of any strong community.
So, when I became aware, through the reporting of one of the Tribune’s fine reporters, Marie Havenga, that Crockery Township residents don’t have full access to a library, I was astounded. Had we somehow been transported back to 1940s Appalachia?
Clearly, there must be some mistake. This is 2013, in West Michigan, and there are two local libraries — Grand Haven's Loutit and Spring Lake — that have countless books on rows and rows of shelves. They’re beautiful new libraries and almost as magical as I recall my hometown two-room library to be.
Why, then, can’t all area residents have access and be able to check out materials?
Apparently, it’s more complicated in this neck of the woods.
A group of Crockery Township residents have banded together to try to get a levy on the ballot that would provide access to Spring Lake District Library and related network of libraries.
The only two statutory hurdles to jump are the library board’s approval and the approval of voters.
But then there’s the hurdle that Crockery Township residents say they face each day — one said it is like having the “big scarlet ‘C’ for Crockery” painted on her forehead. If approved by all involved, Crockery residents would be paying less for library services than those who live in Spring Lake or Spring Lake Township, which is a divisive matter for some.
It seems, however, that snobbery over library resources goes against the essential foundation upon which libraries were built. If the township is willing to pony-up property tax money to help support the library and its network, then we should all welcome its residents with open arms.
Had my hometown library not opened up its doors to an inquisitive and insatiable reader from a similar township back in the 1980s, then I wouldn’t be who I am today. I am grateful for library services, and ask our community members to open their hearts and work to increase access to our surrounding neighbors.