I used a 1974 Grolier Encyclopedia in an out-of-town library this week to find a fact, and it was up-to date enough for my needs as I traveled. Then I called my former daughter-in-law Carole at another library where she works to double check what I learned on my travels.
That’s how it is with my traveling and blending life: people, information and the tools for discovery change a lot. Bet that happens in other families too.
Better to think friendship rather than “former.” I just try to stay on an even keel with everybody as the rest of the family adds and subtracts.
This trip I took wasn’t to just any library; it’s the smallest in the big state of Georgia. Four hundred square feet in tiny Poulan, population 878, pronounced po/lin, and found in southwest Georgia.
One room, open on Thursday afternoons, but librarian Helen Narred is happy to come on over with the key if someone local wants a book, or visitors to Worth County want a peek.
Charming from the outside, crowded on the inside with an abundance of books tumbling in stacks. Ms. Narred says new shelves are coming thanks to a grant from a source she doesn’t know.
“Never had a phone in here, and still don’t,” she says.
But she does point out the book her son checked out in fifth grade. Same volume is still available, and he’s 59.
Putting my iPhone in my pocket to resist Googling for a fact I needed, and reaching for the encyclopedia was sort of freeing, but mostly I think I felt self-conscious. Guessed I shouldn’t have hauled my old World Books to recycling years ago and donated them to the Poulan Library.
Who knew? Traveling discoveries always take me by surprise. So do family connections. Seems libraries are a worthy destination for families who merge from many directions and marriages.
Consider those old World Books my husband of 33 years bought from his eldest son’s mother-in-law Doris before I married in. First grade teacher par excellence, she sold encyclopedias and other educational books on the side.
So we’ve been blending books for a long time and that’s why calling librarian Carole to see what she knew about this tiny public library felt full circle: Doris, long gone because of a tragic auto accident, was her mother. Iconic in the memories of her generous spirit, Doris transcended the pain, and sometimes rancor, of divorce and embraced children born to new marriages following sad divorces.
And she read to all of them, and gave books as gifts. How fine it is that today I can take generations to the libraries, local and far a field. Sometimes I deliver great-grandchildren Will and Emily to the library in my town for books or computer time, and to meet up with their grandmother Carole—the one I called about the one-room library.
Full disclosure says I should call myself their step-great grandmother but I hold that four-letter word at bay.
Oh, you wonder what fact I needed in the one-room library built in 1908? It’s this: What years did Andrew Carnegie endow those beautiful libraries all over America? Poulan’s is not one.
2,500 of them the Grolier said, and told me the span of his life. Visiting Carnegie libraries is a great vacation past-time—they’re fine architecture, the vibrations of years of accumulated reading energizes me and lots of them are art centers now so painting and sculpture are abundant.
1889 is the year Google got me later in the day for the first U.S. Carnegie Library; I couldn’t resist checking. That one’s in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Maybe I’ll visit.
Must admit I Facebooked about visiting the tiny library too, to share another travel notion and to tell the assorted family members who call me a Facebook friend what I’d been up to.
LEAD PHOTO: Started as in-laws, Carole (right) and Christine. After a family divorce, they call themselves friends.