Children need a safe place where they can dream of better things. I know whereof I speak, having been a child — and the middle child at that — of a broken home. I might have despaired if it weren’t for Kalamazoo’s Washington Square Library, where I lived every spare minute of my young life from age 9 or so until high school.
That reading room was a splendid place to a young kid: Tudor style, with wrought iron, leaded glass — and children’s books. My favorite seat was the window seat in the back wall, with a cushion on it below the leaded window that looked onto the marsh, a glimpse of the wild from a repository of civilization.
At first I’d pick out books at random. But I’d discover after some pages that I’d already read them. So I started at the far left corner of the back wall and read down shelf by shelf until I’d finished the last wall of books near the librarian’s desk.
I asked the librarian if I could now go into the stacks, for grown-ups, given that I had read everything else. She said yes, but I must get her approval for the books I chose. I must have gone on to boarding school shortly thereafter, because my recollection is that arrangement didn’t last long.
Never miss a local story.
The Washington Square Library in Kalamazoo, Mich., recently celebrated its 100th anniversary some 70 years after I first took refuge in it, and I’m sure it’s still saving children’s lives.