Tuesday, February 24, 2015


    I LOVE BOOKS; I always have. Why else would the building of our new home in 1993 have compelled this wife of a builder to initiate a bit of controversy among the many people who believed that every proper home should include a formal dining room? Before the plans were finalized, I told my husband I would forgo the formal dining room; I would much prefer an actual library. After all, I told him, I'm not a formal person, but I do love books.
    I prevailed. I got my library. It is panelled and shelved in mellow, durable oak, with room for many books, and it quickly became the room in which Bob and I would spend many hours together. It's never been a hushed, don't-touch-it sort of room. It's as colorful as Christmas; and comfortable and always welcoming to visitors and small children. Even our dog has adopted it as a favorite place where he could snooze in sunny windows.
    Actually, Bob didn't for an instant stand against my wish. From the childhood stories I had shared, it was no surprise to him that I would want a library. Like books, libraries are a part of my history. As a teenage member of the Library Board at Harvey High School, I spent hours refurbishing books, updating files and volunteering for any other work that would provide me an excuse to be in that big room.
    From my earliest days at grammar school, I had been a familiar face at the old Morley Library building in Painesville. That yellow brick building that sat for so many years on the corner of Phelps and St. Clair Streets was a hallmark of my memories of growing up. In 1946, after I had entered grade school, I passed that building daily. It was the start of a long friendship. Almost as much as I loved books, I loved that building's quiet spaces and its mellow, solid feeling; it was my sanctuary.
    AS SOON AS I was old enough to go there by myself, I reserved my Saturday mornings for the library's big-windowed reading room, filled with magazines and newspapers from many places. At first the written contents of the magazines and papers were beyond my comprehension, but still I climbed into one of the adult-size chairs around the long wooden table to look at pictures in the magazines, and to watch the grownups read.
    My first days in that room, I was so small I had to kneel on the chairs to "read" the magazines, and I was aware the grownups saw me as an odd addition to their reading place. As I grew older, I was able to sit comfortably in the old wood chairs and actually read. By then I was well accepted among that mostly-elder reading population.
    I became a voracious reader, sometimes solitary in my habits. In summer, I often took my books outside the building and tucked myself away from easy view on the ledges at the front entry, leaning against the bricks of the building for hours with my borrowed books. Then I'd check out more to travel home with me. (My favorite summer "reading room" in our family's busy, child-filled home was in the spreading arms of a gracious old maple tree at the corner of our front porch).
    At the library, I read my way through the children's room, book by book. Then, well before librarians considered it "the proper age" for me, I'd try to sneak into the junior high area. I was always caught, but soon received permission from the watchful librarians, who monitored the books I chose. I read my way through that section, then begged my way into the grown-up areas.
    The librarians were even more cautious about that, escorting me in and out and checking every book I chose. If no one on the staff had read that book, they would read it before allowing me to take it. I loved mysteries, westerns, animal stories, mythology, historical stories... Before long, I fell in love forever with non-fiction too---biographies, autobiographies, archaeology, travel and disaster stories and more, and these are still among my favorites.
    IF THAT BUILDING was such a part of my own personal history as I grew up, it was also deeply rooted in the history of Painesville itself. Its very name, Morley Library, was history here. Built as a generous gift from a member of the well-known Morley family of Painesville, the donor remained anonymous until Jesse Healy Morley revealed his identity at the dedication. He told residents he had grown up in Painesville in the family home on the comer of Jackson and State, where the structure still exists. When the family moved to Cleveland, they intended to give that spacious house for use as a community library, but issues of location and inadequate parking stymied that plan.
    Morley dedicated and named the new library in memory of the entire Morley family, and particularly his parents, Albert and Esther (Healy) Morley, who had raised their eight children in Painesville. The library was well received and well used by the community from the beginning. When its history was revealed to me by a Morley librarian, Jesse Healy Morley then and there became one of my heros. The librarian, too, became a sort of heroine, having instigated in me a life-long love of history, especially regional history. She was never too busy to answer my questions or steer me to a book that would.
    Sentimental memory dictated that, when the old building was replaced with the current building, I would give attention to the project. I quickly became a supporter, after noting the careful planning that transferred so many design elements from the original building. I quickly fell in love with that new building; it seemed to contain the soul and spirit of the older building. (The Genealogy Room itself makes me feel I have traveled back in time to the reading room of the library of my childhood).

    NOW COMES THE NEWS about a fancy-dancy new digital library at Florida Polytechnic University. By some, it has been hailed as a giant forward-step toward a future of digital-only books and libraries. 

    However grand and futuristic that might sound to many people, I personally will see no room or building as a library unless it's filled with (or includes) books. REAL books, permanently bound with printed words on paper pages. Books that from their very presence entice you to pick them up and read! 
For Bob and me, our library is a place for relaxation, conversation, morning coffee, reading the newspaper and, most of all, books. REAL books!