Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Goin' Down To the Library

As an author, I've visited maybe 20 libraries in the last decade, as far west as Indiana and north to Hancock Point, Maine, where they have a one-room collection of about 70 books. I've been at the Philadelphia Free Library and New York City Public Library, with its lions out front, and to libraries at the Jersey shore and all over Eastern Pennsylvania.

How does the Norristown Public Library measure up?

Except for the 2 city libraries, I'm fairly sure we have the largest public collection of books and other materials of libraries I've visited. I know from my own experience that our library is great for research. I've used it as a resource for historical and other details in nearly all my books. I also used the library quite a bit back when I was trying to learn the business of being an author, wanting to know how to find an agent and a publisher, what magazines published short stories, and what to watch out for in a contract.

1859 Norristown Library
Our library was founded in 1794. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas McKean, signed the library's charter in 1796. The first building was on the 100 block of West Main. In 1853, the building was moved to Dekalb and Penn (I've heard of several buildings being moved in the 19th century all over the US and have to wonder how they did it). In 1859, the lovely building in the photo was built for the library at 516 Dekalb. In 1954, the collection was big enough that they started buying up other buildings on that block of Dekalb.

The library I went to as a kid was where Faith Tabernacle is now, next to Pizza King (which I'm convinced is our most historic business--Pizza King's been there FOREVER). My dad took my brother and me to the library every Saturday morning. I seem to remember the children's library was downstairs in the old building. They had a great Science in the Summer program which we'd attend every year. Since it was during the space race with the USSR, we learned all about Gemini and Apollo spacecraft, Saturn 2 rockets, satellites, and the names of every astronaut, as well as learning about all the planets, and especially, the moon.

The library's collection eventually became so extensive that they bought the building on the corner and a house behind Pizza King, and connected all three buildings in a U-shape. They put the main check-out and exit in the corner building, so you had to go through what seemed like a maze to get there, down a hallway crowded with stacks of books. It always gave me claustrophobia.

Finally common sense prevailed in the 1970s and the new library was built at Powell and Swede. the exterior looked very industrial at first, I thought. The outside walls were gray cement. Not inviting at all. But this being a County construction project, and therefore the lowest bid, a shoddy job was done, and within a couple years, the outer walls began to crack. They were reinforced and the red brickface we see today was applied, which gives the building a warmer look and lets it blend in better with the neighborhood. So the shoddy construction was fortunate, if expensive.

In this day and age of the internet and Kindle, you might think the library isn't needed anymore. Think again. It's still FREE. No matter what your income, you can use the resources, do research and borrow books. People say that Norristown students have less advantages than richer communities, but it isn't true in the case of our library. It's just sitting there waiting to be utilized.

Besides that, the library has programs going on almost daily, for children and adults. Check out their calendar page for October.

We really do have the best library in the county right here in Norristown, and in my opinion, the best compared to the surrounding counties. So use it, bring your kids to it often, and support it.

No comments:

Post a Comment