Marble School Library by
100
(137 Stories)

Prompted By Libraries

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Marble Elementary school had an “old building” which housed the fifth and sixth graders.  Despite being old fashioned and, well, old, it had an aura of prestige; the younger students were in the “new building” across the street, with a gym and wide corridors but not the same spark.  Google informs me that the former was built in 1934 and the latter in 1952—and as of 2020 there is a new version, complete with “solar fields, solar-powered car ports, upgraded air condition systems, natural lighting and higher ceilings”.

The library was on the basement floor of that old 1934 two-story dark brick building in a small windowless room, maybe 12 by 15 feet.  Its walls were lined with bookshelves, neatly organized into the Dewey decimal system

But does Marble still have a library?  Google declines to tell me—it seems that the East Lansing Public Library is the only one in town.  But Marble used to have its own.  Its library was on the basement floor of that old 1934 two-story dark brick building in a small windowless room, maybe 12 by 15 feet.  Its walls were lined with bookshelves, neatly organized into the Dewey decimal system as we were all taught.  We would have “library hour” each week when we could pick out something to borrow, filling out a card tucked into the back of the book with our name and date so the librarian would know who had which book.  At least we had that privilege once we graduated to the old building—I can’t remember if we trekked across the street from the lower grades.  In any case, that is the first library I remember.

My favorite section was the line of orange-colored biographies about the childhood of famous people in the US–mostly white men–but there was some diversity: Abigail Adams, Jim Thorpe.  I also devoured Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and books about dogs or adventure.  The library was a great place for a bookworm, a cornucopia of food for the imagination. Thinking about it still brings happy memories. It was not a place to study and fret, just enjoy.  I have to admit that I hardly recall if there was a librarian, but there must have been.

In sixth grade, we visited the library for another reason:  the closest thing we ever got to the mysterious world of sex education.  I think we needed our parents’ permission. We girls were separated from the boys and trooped down to that dark room for a film on an old 16 mm projector.  Everyone was anxious and a little bit nervous—it was very hush-hush. I remember drawings of a uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and vagina with animations of swelling uterine linings and shedding thereof.  Maybe a description of pads—I think Kotex sponsored the film.  It seemed all very theoretical but there was some useful information.  There may have been a schematic or two of disembodied male anatomy and allusion to pregnancy, but really it was about menstruation.  And what did the boys learn?  I have no idea.

Libraries have maintained their appeal for me, even if they may seem old-fashioned and space-consuming, the digital world now dominant.  I have had library rooms in many places I have lived, and still have more books than can fit into my bookshelves.  Although Marble elementary school and library were probably typical for a predominantly white town in the Midwest in the 1950’s, which some may call the “good old days”, that would be a very narrow view.  The choice of books for children and young adults was far more limited than now. There was much we were not taught or exposed to, and some of the explosion of political and social activity in the sixties surely reflected the need to break free. But as far as I knew, books were not censored or removed from libraries, and the contents were not vetted by religious groups as is happening now in parts of the US.  I refuse to believe these efforts will ultimately be successful.  People will still want knowledge and libraries are made for that. May they thrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. Thanks Khati and amen.

    I just looked back at another story I wrote for the 2019 Libraries prompt about giving a student a copy of Anne Frank’s Diary, and just researched to see if it’s been banned – and yes it has!
    Heaven help us!
    https://myretrospect/stories/the-diary-of-a-young-girl/

  2. Suzy says:

    Thanks for this great story about the Marble School Library, Khati. Now I’m trying to remember if my elementary school had a library. I think it must have, but I have no memory of it. Instead I have vivid memories of going to the public library, which was three blocks from my house, so I could walk there by myself by about fourth grade.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      And I was trying to remember where the East Lansing Public Library was…I only remember the one in the school. Public libraries have had such positive effects over the years. The internet has exploded access to information, but good books?

  3. Jim Willis says:

    Khati, it sounds like you and I had similar experiences in finding inspiration in libraries at a young age. Thanks for sharing yours.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Thanks Jim. I hope that has been a widespread experience. I fear libraries have met similar fates as have art, music, shop, swimming pools and other “superfluous” bits the public schools cannot afford. Not to mention censoring the libraries that remain. But that which survives is appreciated.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Amen, Khati — may they thrive. Your story took me back to my childhood experiences, especially the sex education movie. I’m pretty sure I saw the same one.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      You probably did see the same movie—and we can remember it after all these years too! I never did find out (or ask!)what the boys learned. I imagine it is quite different these days, and there are so many good resources for kids. If they’re not banned.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Amen, Khati! Long may they thrive. I remember seeing that “sex ed” film too (after all, I’m from Michigan), but we saw it in the gym of our middle school, which celebrated its 50th anniversary when I was in 7th grade and was torn down years ago.

    I, too, hope we get out of this transgressive period soon, but it may take a while for those people to go back under the rock from which they sprouted. They seem to be gaining momentum at the moment. The Holocaust deniers, science deniers, Vaxx deniers, aligned with the religious and political right are having a field day with disinformation and the dumbing down of America. Teaching reading and allowing critical thinking to flourish is a way out.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Thanks Betsy—you weren’t the only one to recognize that film! I agree that democracy depends on a strong public education system. Also—no worries about missing out on Retrospect participation due to life intervening—it happens to us all. Thanks for your diligence and thoughtful comments.

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