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Where All Roads Begin

How many of us have sought a library throughout the many stages of our lives? A library is equal parts knowledge, entertainment, and healing. And it is where all roads begin.

She stood, transfixed, for a moment too long. Heads turned to take notice of her, taking a break from their erstwhile pursuits. Funny thing, that. To be something others take notice of when for so long she has been plain and utterly, well…ordinary.

Ordinary to look at, but otherwise worldly. If knowledge was currency, she would have flown out of this town faster than the speed of light. Instead, she opted to spend her lifetime in this place. Sure, there may have been an opportunity now and then to be transferred to the next town over, but those opportunities never quite made it past the opining stage.

No, this library was her place. The quiet humming of activity, seeing the excitement in children’s eyes as they found treasure within the pages of a book, and aiding others in their search for everything from the mundane to the oddly specific—all of these things tied her heart here.

There is comfort in constancy to be sure.

And besides, she knew everyone here and they her. No one quite remembered the day she arrived. It was as if she had always been a part of the background, content and never making a fuss. Retirement had hit her rather hard if she was honest. She rather enjoyed her place here but society was evolving and technology with it. She simply could not keep pace with the advancements.

Which is why today caught her so off guard.

An older couple, Jim and Sharon Murphy, took notice of her and made their way over.

“I can’t believe it, I never thought I would see you again!” Sharon said, as she transferred her reading glasses from her nose to the top of her head.

Jim looked a bit wistful as he nodded his head in agreement and said, “It has been quite awhile.”

Smiling humbly in response, the couple then made their way towards the exit. They took a moment to look back as if to confirm that, yes, they actually had seen her again.

She had known Jim and Sharon since they were children. She wondered how many school projects, book reports, and essays she had assisted them with. Too many to count, especially if they had Ms. Butler as their teacher. That one required a book report a week, even over holiday breaks. Ms. Butler singlehandedly ensured that the library book circulation remained high.

A young boy in the children’s section pointed to her and said, “Mama, look! Look over there. What is that?”

Humpf, I may be old, but I’m not a fossil, she thought to herself.

The boy’s mother hushed him and bent down to whisper something she could not quite make out.

Shifting her attention to the teen section, a table featuring only banned books made her heart swell. Same battle, different age. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It was so good to be back, she took a moment to soak it all in. The sounds that could only be this place: pages rustling, chairs scooting, the occasional book being dropped, whispered voices, a few giggles, the scribble of notes being taken.

A library was more than a gathering place, or a free place to go. The entire spectrum of life occurred within these walls. Perhaps more than anyone else, she could speak to what this place meant to the community.

Just as school-aged children turned to her for books on planets and dinosaurs, the widows and widowers sought her help for books on grief and healing. She opened her arms to all in need.

And while she may no longer be “in service”, she is proud to have a place of honor here. The plaque above her reads:

The Original Card Catalog

Used at This Library

From 1908 – 2000

Where All Roads Begin

Dedicated This 24th day of September, 2023

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