Monday - Thursday: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Friday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Saturdays: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sundays: 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Closed Saturdays July 1 through Labor Day
Closed Sundays from Memorial Day - Columbus Day Weekend

When My Story Began

readingThis week, I returned from a professional conference in Hyannis. As you might guess, I spent four days surrounded by colleagues – librarians of all types from Massachusetts libraries, organizations and associations.
Did we spend the time shushing each other? No, of course not! Instead, we introverted types arose early each morning and going to bed late, devoting each day to share our hopes and dreams for the present and future of libraries.

What drives librarians to reach well past our own comfort levels and beyond our own communities? We attempt to grow as professionals, to learn from our colleagues, and share with other librarians our own unique way of serving our Massachusetts communities in the best way we can.

For many of us, this burden of extroversion is an assault on our systems. It is entirely true that we are drawn to the field of librarianship by our love of information and our love of sharing it. Most of us are altruistic and generous with both our time and our resources. We are extremely enthusiastic about learning, researching and reading.

However, after several days spent in meetings and workshops and at dinners and lunches, we are what I call “interpersonally spent.” My husband knows enough to expect any conversation on the phone with me after a day I have spent this in this intensive extroversion. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I can’t put two words together to speak to you.” He knows I desperately need a break and that I crave a recharge. And he understands and expects nothing more than a “Goodnight please!”

I don’t think I became a librarian because I am an introvert. I didn’t, in fact, become a professional, mastered-degreed librarian until I was 51 years old. Growing older in this chosen profession, I’ve discovered why I was drawn to this field and how my own history unfolded.

I could begin the story in 1952 when I was born to a mother who cherished books. I own many of those of her childhood books where she carefully wrote her name, Carolyn Eunice Taft, in pen or pencil in 1937, 1938 and 1939.  Throughout those years of her youth she received books from her eldest sister, Gladys. My mother cherished those volumes throughout her life, and then she passed them on to me. Through some of those precious books in the Children of All Lands series, I, as a child, also traveled the world with Shaun O’Day of Ireland, Little Philippe of Belgium, and Little Ann of Canada.

My story might have started in a classroom in Berkeley, California. My amazing teacher was responsible for one of the greatest impressions of my life when she built a library nook in the corner of our 4th grade classroom. Perhaps the wall were made of a large refrigerator box. More than likely, though, this library was built by her husband and constructed of wooden walls. I remember the thick piece of carpet on top of a linoleum floor, and a lovely cushion in the corner. My memories are so exquisitely vivid. I loved to retreat within those walls surrounded by several shelves of books, most likely borrowed from the school’s own library.

Perhaps my story began with my first library card at the public library. I grew up in a city where children walked blocks to school and church and where we rode our bicycles along the sidewalks where five library branches were within an afternoon’s travel. Parents rarely accompanied us; mothers were often home with younger siblings and we were considered old enough to be on our own. The influx of people from the San Francisco had caused Berkeley to split at the seams and four library branches had been built to accommodate them in the 30s. I rarely visited the imposing main branch in Berkeley. It was a Carnegie library built 20 years after the San Francisco earthquake. The branches were my haven.

My favorite was the lovely and cozy Claremont branch on the hills leading west to the Claremont Hotel. It was a favorite place to go after school. The North branch on The Alameda, just northwest of the downtown, was a great place to spend summer afternoons with a friend. We read, talked, and made dandelion chains on the grassy knolls surrounding the library.

My story might begin instead with my own personal library. It was made up of the Christmas and birthday gifts my mother gave me. She began with The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew in 1960 when I was young enough that very careless cursive, my youthful signature, graced the inside cover. My collection of these classics still have top billing on several shelves of my current library. They are joined by later books she gave me as a young adult, such as Gone with the Wind. As a young teen I never missed the opportunity to add Scholastic paperbacks to my collection – those books we chose from the newspaper-type flyer they passed out each month in school.

Perhaps it was when my high school library became a respite from the California sun and pollen; that was where I spent my physical education classes 1967-1970 when I could not be allowed on the baseball or archery fields for much of the year due to severe allergies to California grasses.

It goes without saying that my days and nights and weeks spent in my college library may have been where I truly learned to respect the treasures that are held within the stacks. I was at times a history, political science, English, and Russian studies major. I researched Civil War soldier Joshua Chamberlain (years before the movie Gettysburg was released) and studied mountains of Civil War annals on the upper floors and long hallways. I stacked volume after volume of the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature on tables and flagged entry after entry for research papers I’ve now forgotten I’d ever written.

My story also could begin with my own daughters.  I volunteered in their elementary school library, stamping due dates and shelving endless piles of books. I stacked their desks at home high with so many books for their own projects that they learned to avoid asking me, their mother, for any help. Years later my youngest daughter was in college when she paid me the highest compliment I’ve ever received; she admitted that it was my particular annoying habit of indulging their every research whim that made her appreciate her own strength to research. There was, indeed, a method to my Mom’s madness.

My story certainly didn’t end there and it doesn’t end here. Yes, I finally, returned to graduate school at the end of the last century, partly as a means to support my new single self, but mainly to pursue my lifelong dream to spend as much time in a library as I could – sharing, educating, learning, and being among some of the smartest, committed, caring people I know – my colleagues, Massachusetts librarians.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Charlotte’s column in the June 1st issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.


Translate »