The Whitehorse Public Library was my second home as I was growing up.
My mother started working there when I was barely past infancy, and it became my habitual haunt before I could even read.
I received my first library card when I was a beaming three-year-old. Many have come after it, as they seem to have a habit of misplacing themselves.
I remember I would sometimes stay at my mother’s workplace. I’d take a break from the hyper-ridiculousness of childhood to sit and read until the lights began to flicker. I knew that meant the library would close soon, and that it was time to go home.
Soon, the library became my safe retreat between classes and childhood activities. I knew the place like I knew my own home, and could likely navigate it blindfolded.
I remember the changes as it developed; the security became tighter, for one thing. There was the addition of the Whizunit, an artful machine that was a delight to everyone, particularly children.
I remember that the children’s section had wooden platforms softened by green carpet upon which kids would sit and lounge and read.
When they were removed in lieu of proper seating, my younger self was aghast that she would have to sit in a chair like a normal person. She soon recovered, of course.
The librarians became like my dear aunts. They were a sort of extended family to me, and others.
“Hello, Santana,” they would say. “I see your hair is a different colour again this week.”
And we would talk. I knew all of their names, and would visit them while waiting to be picked up from some class or another. The librarians watched me grow up.
Now the library is closing. Things are different today, I notice as I enter.
Shelves have been moved and people are everywhere. The usual rules have been disregarded, much to my amusement. Usually the library is kept quiet; now it is filled with citizens chattering away with the staff and with each other.
In normal times, food is never allowed in the main building, only in the meeting rooms and lobby. Now everybody is strolling about eating cake.
Massive influxes of people have entered the library; it seems they all sense the impending doom of their main source of books. It will be closed until the new library opens, after November, or so they’ve heard.
Usually people use the Internet connection for awhile, or check out a few books, then leave.
Today, regulars and strangers alike take out stacks upon stacks of books, all talking with the librarians as they do.
Mairi is strolling about taking pictures of the patrons; I have to freeze several times as she snaps photographs of the regulars.
Jodi is one of the few cheerful ones, as most of the others are exhausted at the level of business now transpiring in the library. Shannon, among others, takes on the role of patient psychologist to the distraught customers.
The patrons know there will be a new library, but, “It just won’t be the same! I wish it didn’t have to close.”
The librarians pat their shoulders in response, distributing soothing smiles and repetitions of “There, there ….”
People stock up on books like stocking up on food before a nuclear holocaust.
Looking around in awe of the changes, I check out my own stack of graphic novels and other fine literature. I feel a pang of nostalgia, realizing that I’ll soon be cast out of my second home.
Things have to change, of course, and it’s not all that problematic. Nevertheless, as I thank my librarian aunt and cast a long look around, I can’t help but feel sad.
I’m going to miss this place. I am flooded with memories of being a kid, when I loved to hide in the dusty old fireplace with its curtain of chains, and how I would repeatedly press the button on the Whizunit, much to the annoyance of other patrons.
There will be a new library, of course, and I will eventually memorize every inch of it. But it won’t be the place I grew up in.
It will have the same employees and the same books, and I will learn to enjoy it, just as I have enjoyed the old library.
Still, being there on closing day was a shock of immense proportions – one that I will always remember.