A library is more than a building

Susan Condon Love

As I read about the efforts in Bay Village to re-imagine its library to fit current needs (think technology, meeting space, etc.), I can’t help but flash back to deep and happy memories of libraries, both from my own childhood and those of my children.

I grew up on Parklane Drive in Fairview Park, right off of West 210th Street. I was so proud when my parents let me walk alone to the old library there, nestled in a cozy brick building right next to Fairview High School’s football field. I would walk out of my parent’s tidy little white colonial, turn left on 210 and walk the two blocks or so. I carefully crossed the street (OK, I would have jaywalked because there was no light or crossing that I remember) to get to a narrow, long sidewalk between a house and the field. I knew once I reached that looooong sidewalk that I was almost there!

It was a long time ago, but I still remember the wonderful scent of old and new books. I remember kindly old ladies at the front desk (they were probably in their 30s at the time) as I returned my old books and started on my quest for new adventures. I don’t think I had a library card back then, but I remember carefully reciting my address and telephone number.

The children’s room was off to one side. I was allowed to take home as many books as I wanted! I distinctly remember the joys of fairy tale books. I think they were grouped by colors, for some reason — the Red Fairy Tales, the Green Fairy Tales … well, you get the idea. I also remember reading every single Nancy Drew and Beverly Cleary book. I adored “Beezus and Ramona” and the “Mystery of the Old Clock Tower.”

I’ve got to say, I was so sad when, after years working at newspapers in different states, I came back home to discover the old library was closed and a new one — albeit an airy and large facility next to the Gemini Center — had taken its place.

When my children were young, we lived in Lakewood. I adored taking them to the “old” library. Again, it was a brick building filled with shelves brimming with wonders. I took my children to all the programs and every Saturday, we exchanged our old books for new. They loved it as much as I did.

When the new Lakewood library opened in 2008, I was upset. I wasn’t upset at change, but I disliked the homogenized “cathedral” like atmosphere. Worse, most of the shelves on the first floor in the new building were bereft of books. It felt like a mausoleum without bodies. The children’s area was great, but the draconian rules regarding the video department made me and my children feel uncomfortable. We all stopped going and I returned to my roots, the Fairview Park library. Once again, I fell in love with libraries. These days, after a move, my husband and I thoroughly enjoy the nearby Rocky River Library, a cozy, friendly and easy-to-navigate home away from home. We go every other week.

It is wonderful that Cuyahoga County library officials listened to Bay Village residents. The first design of a new library left them upset and worried that the design did not fit the feel of the lakeside city. The new schematic (see story on Page 1) seems to hit just the right chord with residents.

I hope the new library, when it is completed, helps Bay Village residents create new memories that will be with them and their children forever. And I hope they stock a lot of fairy tale books, Nancy Drew and Beverly Cleary. Those are classics. Really.

Contact this reporter at editor@westlifenews.com or call 440-871-5797.

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