I still remember when I found out the first Harry Potter book in the library in my elementary school. It had a wide window on one side of the wall that allowed plenty of sunlight to penetrate. If I remember correctly, the first Harry Potter book that just came out at that time was introduced as one of the recommended books for elementary school students in the corner of the library right by the entrance. That’s where I saw the book for the first time.
Harry Potter captivated me right away from the first page until I had to stop for whatever reasons. It sucked me right into the story and the magical world the characters live in. But the library was always set the right tone and environment for me to travel into another world.
I always liked being in a library for the same reasons lots of people like the place: smell of paper and books without any interruption of other scents, air that seemed to stop and still, an empty space that lets people to explore the worlds within books instead of the physical reality they are in.
There are a few libraries of my childhood and youth that I still remember. Mostly because I went to libraries more frequently when I was little. I consumed books more hungrily than I was for food. When I was about 5, my mom got me a set of children’s books which contained different short stories with animals, bugs and sort. I loved them so much that I felt nervous to finish them all. New books and stories excited me. When my whole family went out to have dinner, I insisted staying in alone to read those books.
My mom also got me a collection of biographies. I read the biography of Helen Keller and Walt Disney over and over. Their stories gave me hopes that I can do anything that I dream of, no matter how challenging and hopeless it seems to be. By that age, I didn’t really think that it would even be challenging to do and get what I want.
I loved the Moomin books when I was 9. I was living in Seoul with my grandparents, mom, and my sister. My school library didn’t have the Moomin books so I went to a different library that was owned by the city. It was a lot darker and quieter and I don’t remember seeing other people in the library. Most of the times it would just be myself or me and my best friend. Exotic characters, names, and places from the book kept me coming back to the library to read those books. How different the troll stories from Finland were from my own small world. I learned and felt loneliness from Snufkin, freedom to be oneself from Little My, horror from Sniff’s story in a rainy night.
These books and libraries affected and shaped little me without myself realizing it. I still love libraries and there are fantastic libraries in the states, but I don’t know why I don’t go there anymore. I read a lot less books than when I was a child. And it was a fun thing to do when I was a child as there weren’t many places I could hang out. Also, I read books for fun, for my enjoyment. Nowadays I read books to study, to learn about something. And I go to libraries when I need to work.
Reading books for specific needs may be reducing our reading experience to explore and open the new world within us. We get weary about reading books for just enjoyment because time is finite and there are lots of books that would entertain you but you will be left with nothing after spending a few hours or days on that book. But it’s too important to find joy again in reading. Exploring another world from texts, traveling without traveling is what grew the world in our brain and the ability to imagine things. Imagining is the first step of creating. One day I want to have my own library full of paper and woods with a large window and I will travel to unknown places.