I’ve always loved a good library. When I was a kid growing up in Kenya, East Africa, in the mid-1970s and 1980s, I didn’t really know what a library was. I’d never see one, and the idea of a place that let–nay, encouraged–you to read their books FOR FREE was as foreign a concept to me as color tv and letters not written on blue aeograms. It’s unfortunate that I was such a voracious reader, then–my only option for a variety of books was the used bookstore in the capital city, six long hours away from my town. I’d agonize over my two or three book choices, weighing my interest against sheer size–it would be a long two months before I’d return to sell the books back to the bookstore owner at a reduced price and make new choices. After much soul-searching and gnashing of teeth, I’d buy my books and have the first one read by the time we reached home.
Cue my first encounter with an AMERICAN library. I was in fifth grade, and we were in the States for six weeks on deputation. When my grandma took me to the library and told me that I could borrow up to ten books FOR FREE, and, when I finished, could return the books and borrow ten more, continuing the cycle all summer long until we flew back home to Kenya, I honestly thought I’d died and gone to heaven. It was then and there that my life-long love affair with libraries began.
And so, when I saw an ad for a job as a library page in our town, I decided it was time to cross something off my bucket list. A word about my feelings about bucket lists: I have no interest in jumping out of a plane, going white-river rafting down the Colorado, or deep-sea diving in the Pacific. Maybe because I grew up in a foreign country and have visited many different places and experienced other cultures in ways that lots of people have not, my bucket list items are, well, small. Everyone I know thinks I’m nuts for taking the job–I’m still an adjunct professor at our local college where I’ve been teaching English for over eleven years now, and my colleagues are bemused by me. My husband thinks I’ve lost my marbles, and even the ladies who hired me seemed a little astonished that I applied–“You do know this is just a part-time, low-level job, right?” they asked me at one point, to which I nodded and beamed.
I told my English Composition students about my new job the other day, and I ended that day’s lecture with the exoration, “People always tell you to dream big–to reach for the stars. I’m here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with dreaming small, either. If you want to shelve books part-time for minimum wage at the age of almost-fifty just because you’ve always dreamed of doing it, well, then go ahead.” Their smiles told me that either they understood where I was coming from, or that they’re used to me being a little crazy and this was just par for the course. Either way, I’ll take it.
What’s next on my list? Oh yeah. Getting that novel I wrote published. I just hope I don’t have to wait forty years for that one.