I confess. I’m a bookworm. I always have been, and always will be. I can’t deny it because the evidence is in almost every room in my house. Books. Hundreds of books on hundreds of subjects. Books I’ve read, books I intend to read, and books I’ll never get around to reading. I try to stop buying, but I can’t. There are too many wonderful, fascinating books out there. I love books, and have as far back as I can remember.
One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood in North Baton Rouge is of the occasional trips we made to the public library which was housed downtown in an imposing building at the corner of Laurel and North 7th Street. There was a children’s section, and I would look through the books with all the eagerness and anticipation of a 49er panning for gold.
Because there was only one library, and because it was so far from where most people lived, the library system brought a small cross section of the library to us in a bookmobile. (In case you never had one in your area, a bookmobile is essentially an RV full of books.) I vividly remember waiting impatiently in the vacant lot at the corner of Weller Avenue and Alliquippa Street as the bookmobile slowly pulled in, and finally opened its door. Once inside, I would hurry to the children’s section. Because the bookmobile was so small, the selection was quite limited, but that didn’t matter in the least.
You can imagine my delight when the North Baton Rouge branch of the public library opened at the corner of Plank Road and Winbourne Avenue. The building was certainly not impressive, but inside were a hundred times as many books as the bookmobile could hold – or so it seemed. Anytime I wanted, I could jump on my bike, and within minutes indulge my passion for reading.
As time passed more neighborhood libraries sprang up, and the main library downtown was replaced by the much larger, more centrally located library on Goodwood Boulevard. When our children needed to research a homework assignment or simply find a book for pleasant summer reading, my wife and I took them to the Goodwood library.
The system has continued to grow so that there are now beautiful, spacious branch libraries in most parts of our community making libraries readily accessible to everyone without having to travel more than five or ten minutes.
It’s hard to believe that there are children all over the world – including right here in the United States of America – who don’t have that same access to books, and will never have lovely memories like mine. How much richer would their lives be if they could access books as easily as you and I do? How much better off would this world be if those children could remove the veil of ignorance from their eyes by exploring the vast, wonderful world beyond their small towns and villages?
I have recently read two articles that give me hope. The first has to do with bringing books to children here in the United States; the second is about building libraries for children around the world.