First Library Experience


My love affair with libraries didn’t begin in a library. It actually began in a bookmobile. It was the fifties and one would roll into our rural neighborhood in northeastern Massachusetts and stop almost in front of our home. My mother, younger brother, and I would climb the steps (along with a few neighbors) and walk down the aisle eyeing the books packed in on both sides. Two people manned this magical vehicle—a driver and a librarian to check the books in and out.

I went online in hopes of finding a picture of a bookmobile that might look similar to what I remembered and was delighted to find my bookmobile and my first librarian.

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Haverhill Public Library bookmobile, 1956. Photograph courtesy of the Senter Digital Archive at the Haverhill Public Library, courtesy of the Trustees of the Haverhill Public Library.

It was from this very bookmobile that I read my way through the Hardy Boys and some of Nancy Drew, but my first love was the Black Stallion series. There was Old Yeller, My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, Bambi, and The Yearling—obviously, anything with an animal in it struck a chord.

We knew mom appreciated this service—she was busy taking care of us, doing the bookkeeping for the family business and feeding the hired help–but on the day the bookmobile was coming she would get ready. The bathroom was always clean for their use and she would make them a special snack. She was a terrific baker and she’d often make blond brownies and in the summer she served her iced tea. The bookmobile crew would take a short break visiting with mom while having an afternoon snack. You want those recipes, don’t you? Click here.

Wyoming or Bust

When I left Utah (on 10.8.18) I was hoping to go northeast to Wyoming and then through South Dakota but the weather wasn’t cooperating so I traveled south from Salt Lake City toward Heber City and east to spend the night in Steamboat Springs, CO. I was pleasantly surprised to wake up the next morning to see the weather had cleared enough to head north to Cheyenne.

The Laramie County Library in Cheyenne was everything I’d hoped for and more. I knew it had its beginnings above a store in 1886. Then a Carnegie Library was built in 1902. Next there was a building at a new location in the 60s before the current 100,000 sf building was constructed in 2007. It won the ALA Library of the Year award in 2008 and has the distinction of being the first LEED/green building in Wyoming.

Walking around outside the building was a treat.

Cheyenne exterior with flying birds


That is a BIG boot.

Cheyenne Wall of Quotes.jpg

Quotes on a brick wall by Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Earl Jones, and even Dr. Seuss were thoughtfully done although I don’t remember seeing one woman quoted. I’m sure there were some-just not in the picture I took. Perhaps a woman said this one, “Knowledge is free at the library. Just bring your own container.” since the credit was given to Unknown. I’m going to think a woman said it.

I’ve gotten carried away with the exterior…now let’s go inside and see what’s happening.

There are three floors with the second floor dedicated to all things children. They have two storytime rooms, a teen area, study rooms, and, of course, computers.

On the other floors is everything else you could want in a library-even a resident author. Librarian Mary Gillgannon, is also an author of medieval/historical fiction:

I did have to pay a dollar to use a computer, but no ID was checked. The fee is waived if the user cannot pay.

I visited a room with women who meet weekly from 10-4 to work on their fiber crafts. They bring their lunch and whatever they are working on for however long they can stay. I very much enjoyed looking at their projects.

Cheyenne Women's sewing group.jpg

Here’s the teen room:

Cheyenne Teen Zone

You can see quotes on the walls, written by teens, on either side of the windows. This one stopped me:

Cheyenne Muslim wall quote

Libraries open doors and give each of us a voice. Libraries make us think new thoughts and look at the world from another’s perspective. And when we return we are better than when we left. As I headed east I knew I was better for having visited the Laramie County Library.

Bikes, Books…And Beets

It’s the beginning of October and the “Ours” part of our adventure is a wrap.  We’re briefly back in Utah and Jim and our son, Jeff, are busy checking all their options to avoid bad weather while heading east. When you’re on two wheels the weather is just about the most important thing happening.

Personally, I don’t see many options as the snowy Rockies are clearly between Utah and New Hampshire, but I leave the planning to them.

Here they are, ready to put on their helmets and head out on their Father-Son Road Trip.

jim and jeff leaving for nh

The next day they sent this picture from Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

jeff jim bikes steamboat springs

Clearly, they didn’t totally avoid the snow but they assured me that the roads stayed dry. I decided to believe them.

Meanwhile, I’m lingering a few days longer to continue visiting family and friends. If it seems as if I’ve posted a lot about Utah libraries you’d be correct…and I’m not quite done.

Last year my dear friend, Pauline and her husband, moved to the new Legacy Village in the Sugar House area of Salt Lake. They’d lived in the foothills of the city for decades and the main (award-winning) library had been their library since it opened in 2006, but they’d fallen in love with the branch near their new home. While I was visiting they gave me directions and I walked through a small,  charming park to reach the Sprague Branch and found their small, but charming Tudor-style library.

sprague library front

Opened in 1928, the American Library Association awarded it the Most Beautiful Branch Library in 1935. Renovations and updates over the years have increased it to just over 13,000 sf. Although the Sugar House area has grown as a popular shopping area, I’m happy to report that the library has retained its relevance for its neighbors.

Yes, that’s a sugar beet on the front lawn and, I agree, you don’t see that every day.

Here in 1850, the first Utah attempt was made to process sugar from beets. It failed. But experiments continued and in 1890 a plant was built nearby in Lehi, launching a successful sugar beet industry that eventually spread throughout the Mountain West.

Below is the reading room late one Saturday afternoon just before closing.

sprague library reading room

Heather Hart is the library manager and she commented on the silver lining resulting from a flood in the lower level in 2017.  The city is looking at the needed repairs as an opportunity to also make updates and renovations. The library will be adding a cafe, makerspace, and a bookstore.

I’m looking forward to returning to visit when the renovations are complete–oh, and to visit family and friends.

Turning Around

Friends have been asking various questions:

“Aren’t you sick of traveling yet?”  Not remotely. 

“Aren’t you tired of living out of a suitcase?”  Surprisingly, no.

“When are you coming home?” When I feel like it.

However, it’s the end of September and our weather apps say that there’s snow in the Rockies and the Midwest looks like storm central so Jim and I head east. I’m not saying I’ll go home, but I am traveling in that direction.

We drive through the Carr Fire area. Devastating. A sign as we enter Redding, CA says, “From these ashes we will rebuild” and many residents have posted homemade signs thanking the firefighters who fought it.

Whoa! Nevada is certainly different. You know you’ve entered an alternate universe when you have to walk through a room full of slot machines and smoke to get to the restroom.

Elko, Nevada was along the California Trail but no one stopped. A town did pop up when the Transcontinental Railway ended there. When the rail crews moved on, the town remained. It became a center for mining and ranching and today you can add gambling and tourism.

I decide to check out the Elko County Library System which has nine libraries. I visited the main one in Elko and a branch in West Wendover. The exterior of the Elko main branch has neat art on the building and in front of it.

I was sorry to miss seeing the county bookmobile that visits 23 locations in a two-week rotation. I do love bookmobiles.

Elko’s building was dedicated in 1974 through private donations and the “Library Services and Construction Act”, whatever that is.

Here’s the Elko County Library:

Elko Library exterior

This library is not in New England:

Elko Cowboy Boot.jpg

Kelly Eveleth is the Branch Manager in West Wendover. When I asked her what she considers her biggest challenge she quickly answered that it’s being alone. Recently the local post office was robbed and the lone postal worker was shot for the small amount of cash in the till.

The West Wendover Library is open five days a week for 30 hours. If Kelly takes any vacation time the library is manned by a volunteer.

West Wendover NV Kelly.jpg

Kelly’s colorful reading display promises adventure.

I started down that road when my mother helped me onto a bookmobile in the early 1950’s. Now I’m visiting libraries all across the country.

And I’m not going home yet.

So there.

The Library Book

The Library Book

Put on the brakes.

Stop the car.

I need to take a detour from my library visits to make sure you know about this book.

If I say it’s about the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Central Library I’d be doing it a serious injustice and yet that is what it’s about. Orlean tells of the fire that destroyed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. She tells of the massive investigation to attempt to determine who/what caused the fire. She tells of  the massive effort to save those 700,000 damaged books. And she tells of the massive effort to restore the library. All of that could have been boring reading but in her hands it’s compelling.

That said, The Library Book is much more.  As she writes the story of this one library she sweeps in every public library and the mission they have to serve their communities. This book is a love letter to anyone that loves books and libraries.

There were paragraphs I had to stop and read again. The writing was so good I took pictures of some of those paragraphs so I’d have them on my phone to reread.

No, I’ve never done that before.

I almost never purchase a book. I borrow them.

I bought The Library Book.

The Wild Trees

It was 2014 when retired forester, Ned Therrien, tracked me down at our library. He’d  come to tell me about his upcoming cross-country road trip with his wife, Jean. They were going to lots of national parks but he was particularly enthused about visiting the redwoods. Ned is a first-class nature photographer and he offered to give a library presentation about their trip when they returned.

Ned loves trees. I love trees too. But Ned REALLY loves trees.

He asked me if I’d read this:

Wild Trees

He recommended I correct this gaping hole in my reading. He was correct. It was my favorite non-fiction book that year.

Wild Trees: a story of passion and daring is about some crazy college students who have a passion for trees. Specifically the redwoods. Even more specifically, the tops of the redwoods.

At times I had to put the book down because I could not endure the suspense of them climbing 300′ trees without ropes, safety nets or other protective gear.

I did say they were crazy.

What they discovered in the tops of those trees blew me away: mosses, lichens, spotted salamanders, thickets of huckleberry bushes, and thick layers of soil sustaining plant life unknown to science.

I’m getting excited all over again just writing this.

I’d always wanted to see the redwoods but after reading Preston’s book I felt compelled to see them. Compelled, I tell you.

The morning we were going to see these wild trees a friend texted me saying, “you do know that they are sacred, don’t you?”. She isn’t one to toss around the word sacred. Jeez, as if I wasn’t already excited enough.

So, we walked among those giants; the largest and tallest organisms on earth.

Here’s a close-up of a tree:

Redwoods close up of bark

These magnificent trees can withstand the elements and live for centuries, but over 95% of them were gone by the late 60s. Logging did that. We humans did what the elements could not.

At one point, while I was taking pictures, a woman asked me if I had an iPhone. When I said yes, she offered to use it to take this pano picture of us by a “Big Tree”.

Redwoods Jim ET

The fine print: Height 286′, diameter 23.7′, estimated age 1,500 years.

Cool, huh? She showed me how, so later I took this:

The new from the old.

As promised, when they returned, Ned did a  presentation about his search for the tallest redwoods. I don’t want to make you feel badly if you missed it, but he did do a fine job.

As a consolation here is a short video.


The California Coast

Driving down Route 199 from Oregon is awe-inspiring when you get into the northernmost corner of California because there are some very large trees on either side of the road casting some very dark shadows.


Sequoioideaes already!

It’s late in the day when we arrive in Crescent City, pop 7,600, which has the distinction of receiving the largest and most destructive tsunami to hit the United States Pacific Coast. Three smaller waves preceded the 20 footer that destroyed most of the downtown. That was in 1964. A lot has been done to protect the harbor, city, and it’s inhabitants since then. Whew.

The next morning we located the library, which is near the ocean.  It hadn’t opened yet, so we walked around admiring the harbor and visiting the nearby National Park Service Visitor’s Center until it did.

The oft-repeated story about the beginning of a library is similar in Crescent City in that we can thank the women. Here it was the Ladies Library and the year was 1906.

The present building opened in 1983.

Although the building is modest there’s a nice collection inside. I was pleased to see their Friends group has used books for sale just inside the front door. I was even happier to see two volunteers helping to organize the books.

Here Sandy is stamping the due date in a book for a patron. Manually. Hard core.

Before I got to meet Sandy, above, I overheard her talking to a patron about how successful their Banned Book Week had been the previous week.  When I told her I was visiting libraries she wanted to know what other libraries were doing to celebrate it. I suspect she wanted to store away some ideas for next year.

It made me want to go read a banned book. There are a lot to choose from.





As we drive from Yellowstone to California we go through lots of small towns.

Some are tiny.

One qualified as teensy:        

This picture is courtesy of the Internet. The sign we saw wasn’t as spiffy. I suspect the services offered above were from a better time. 

We did stop in Silver Lake, pop. 150, so that I could visit this library: 

Stepping through the door I saw two women. One stood up and I asked her if she was the librarian. She answered in the affirmative. I put my hand out  to shake hers, saying, “Hi, my name’s Betty, and I’m on a cross-country road trip visiting libraries”. Her face broke into a smile and she introduced herself as Rosa and gave me a big hug. 

I’ve had lots of sweet welcomes visiting libraries but this was definitely the warmest. 

Two rooms. Two public access computers. It was full of books. The main branch in Lakeview (almost 100 miles away) rotates newer titles every few months. Rosa had these bags ready for the next exchange:

The school used to be next door but the new one is further away and the kids don’t walk to the library the way they used to–I could hear the loss in Rosa’s voice as she shared this with me. 

She came outside to say goodbye: 

You know how there’s an immediate bond when you meet someone that loves something you love too. For me, it’s been heartening to visit so many libraries, large and small, and to feel connected to so many wonderful librarians. 

Meeting Rosa, and visiting the tiny Silver Lake Branch Library, was special. I got another hug as I said good-bye and somehow found tears in my eyes as I walked back to my car.