I was astonished to discover myself crying as I pulled into the parking lot. I had been looking forward to the re-opening of the Culver City Julian Dixon Library; I was happy, excited, filled with the pleasures of anticipation. But tears? I had not expected tears.
I parked on the back row, facing the school yard through the chain link fence. I sat for a moment and wiped my eyes, truly surprised that I was awash in emotions.
Reaching back to the first time I’d ever come to the library, I recalled I was carrying just one small daughter, and the kind of shoulder stretching tote bag often worn by women carrying small children. The display cases in the lobby were promoting Storytime, for just the right age group, beginning in – I could hardly believe my luck – half an hour. I got to put the daughter down, put the tote bag down, and enjoy the books. It felt like an actual miracle.
In the decade and a half since then, I have seldom stayed away for long.
As someone who spent a significant portion of life working in bookstores (Crown, Small World, Bookstar, Barnes and Noble) I have an affinity for sitting in the stacks that could be compared to fish and water. A building full of books is not simply the portal to paradise, it is paradise itself.
There are still bookstores in the world, but far fewer. Only two of the ten stores I worked in still exist. For the record, I’d like it known that I have never purchased a book from Amazon, because they are the main reason we have so few bookstores. I do not feed the hand that bites me.
Many of my former comrades have gone on to become librarians, and I’m so glad they have. While the world needs more bookstores, it can never have enough libraries.
While the Julian Dixon was undergoing renovation, I wasn’t holding my breath waiting. Many of the Los Angeles City Libraries (like the one at Venice and Inglewood) or other County libraries (like the one in Marina del Rey) are very lovely and have a lot to offer.
But as any enchanted young woman clicking her heels together can tell you , there’s no place like home.
By the time I was wiping my eyes and exhaling the unexpected wave of emotion, my daughter, now several inches taller than me, leaned over and asked, “Are you okay, Mom? Should we wait for a little bit?”
I said, no, I’m good, we’ve waited long enough. We went into the building full of books, together. I realized I was crying because it was still miraculous, and still paradise.