There are several places here in Tipton County who made me who I am today. They are ingrained in me and I hope have changed me for the better, at least I believe they have.
I’ve talked about walking up on the square when I was a kid, but I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned my love for the public library.
I’m sure my mother took me to the library before we moved here the first time, when I was three-and-a-half or four. But those libraries, in Germany, in New York City, in Columbia, S. C., those are not the ones I remember.
When I was five, we moved to New Orleans with my father (upon his return from the Army) and we would go to the Latter Library in uptown New Orleans. It was a beautiful, beautiful place, an old mansion on St. Charles, and we’d spend afternoons in the sunny room sitting and listening to storytellers.
I have always been a reader, having finished my favorite, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” when I was a mere seven years old. But my love for reading grew here, at this small town library, which was only a short walk away when I visited my grandmother in the summertime.
We returned to Tennessee when I was 11, and by the time the summer was over, I had literally read all the children’s books and had moved to the adult section.
Ms. Doris Boyd monitored what I borrowed, sometimes quietly explaining that that book might be “too grown up” for me, of particular mention were the books on witchcraft. (Side note, I’ve yet to read any adult book on witchcraft, Mr. Boyd.)
I always took her advice, because you see, I was a little afraid of her.
Often, it was just the two of us, Ms. Boyd, with her Aqua Net pin curls and dark salt-and-pepper hair and that stern librarian look and me, talking about books; she knew her stuff when it came to good reads.
However, as the daughter of an Episcopalian priest and a former Catholic school student, I had one deep seeded piece of angst with the library. I worried for Ms. Boyd’s soul.
She seemed to be such a saintly woman, after all, much like the nuns at my former school. But I knew her secret, I had her figured out: Ms. Boyd had gone to jail.
I finally could not resist any longer and told my mother about the librarian’s sullied, hidden past.
My puzzled mother was surprised and wondered about my recent declaration
In hushed tones, I quietly explained that Ms. Boyd was a member of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and therefore was a Presbyterian who had served time and finally repented her dastardly ways.
Luckily, my mother explained the ARP was a denomination of church and that Ms. Boyd had never worn stripes except when she deemed it a fashion choice.
I spent hours and hours and hours at that library. It was my refuge, my solace from leaving a big city of King Tut exhibits and Mardi Gras parades and all sorts of things I didn’t understand but sure seemed fun. Gone were the days when my brother and I would shout out the names of uptown architecture (it’s how we learned the columns: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Instead, we’d moved to a small town that had just opened its first McDonald’s, where going to Walmart was a weekend social outing and you weren’t anyone unless you had your own set of roller skates to use at Rollie’s.
The library was where I went to escape, where I read about imaginary people’s lives and wonder what their world was like. Those books were my friends, dependable and trustworthy, always there and never faltering. From “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret” to “Deenie” and “A kid called Blubber,” the books armed me for my young-soon-to be teenaged life. And best of all, they did not judge, did not ask about school.
I think of all the time I spent there by myself. I suppose children don’t do that anymore, and that saddens me. But even if one child walks or rides his bike right now, what a wonderful thing it would be to keep this as an annex when the larger site is completed (see page A1). Children can’t ride a bike out to that location. Children who walk to this site with their teachers, such as the preschoolers from the Methodist-Presbyterian Day School, could still use the existing library.
Personally, I believe the more libraries the better. Have you noticed the current wave of strategic planning that is prepping Tipton County for the future? We are in a sweet spot right now, especially when it comes to our schools, dual enrollments, and plants, such as Unilever, taking interest in developing the manpower for tomorrow.
In the next 10 to 15 years, Tipton County is going to grow, y’all. And we have to be able to not only compete locally, but globally. We need our future to be able to communicate clearly, concisely and with not only a breadth, but depth of understanding. All of that comes from being well read.
There’s a petition to keep the Tipton County Library open as an annex. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled about the new library at Dyersburg State Community College. I can’t wait to see it, use it, write about it and make new memories. But I think we can use this one, too. I hope so.
I smile when I think back to hating that there was a limit to how many books I could check out books. I think the amount to loan was 10 and I, sometimes daily, would walk back and forth from my grandmother’s to the library- up this street, down this fence, take the shortcut, down the hill, across the street.
I know it’s nostalgic and we don’t save buildings just because of good memories, but gosh, I would hate to lose what I experienced to others, if in this day and age, that experience is to be had, I don’t know.
Today, I no longer read so often. I write instead. It’s become my life and now, my profession. After many different winding roads, I’ve found the same sense of peace I used to have as a child when sitting amongst books, but in a different way.
And thank you, our library for that. And thank you, Mrs. Boyd.
And I’m really glad you were never in jail.