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An Ode to Library Story Time

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live. It is open not only to regular Book Riot contributors, but to guest posters from the publishing industry, authors, and….you. If you are interested in telling us about a book that has been influential in your life, please contact us: community (at) bookriot (dot) com.

I never played house as a kid. Never pretend-rocked a baby, never rushed to babysit anyone or anything, never thought about being a mother. When the ultrasound technician told me I was not just pregnant, but pregnant with twins, I sighed and recited I Was Born Not Ready I Was Born Not Ready I Was Born Not Ready, and also Shit Shit Shit.

I stayed home after the boys were born because blah blah recession blah blah day care costs. Once home, I put the boys in their bouncy seats and tried not to cry when their crying became too grating because crying involved breathing hard and breathing hard hurt after the c-section. You’ve seen a version of me out in the world, or been a version of me: the great unwashed new mothers, zombie-faced in their exhaustion, not looking as joyful or content as they’re supposed to after having a child. Don’t tell her to smile. She might punch you in the face, if she can muster the energy.

After a few weeks of climbing the walls, I started frantically googling stuff like “what to do with newborns” and “where to take newborn babies for free.” Google knows where I live, of course, and up popped the story time schedule at my local library. I packed the boys into their double stroller and packed myself into the single pair of yoga pants that fit me and carried myself to Lapsit Lambs- the story time session for newborns and pre-walkers. AND I NEVER, EVER LEFT. I actually live under the flannel board.

I’m sure that a children’s librarian’s job description doesn’t say anything about Being Nice To Post-Partum Women Who Have No One To Talk To Because None of Their Friends Have Children And Women On The Internet Are Too Busy Screaming At Each Other About Breastfeeding And Baby Wearing To Be Of Any Comfort, but that’s what the librarians did. They cooed over the babies appropriately but didn’t ignore me. They reassured me that reading to my newborns wasn’t a waste of time, even if their only reaction was to try to eat their toes. I met other mothers who didn’t feel like talking about vaccinating or making your own baby food or co-sleeping. We talked about Maurice Sendak and which board books kept a 3-month-old’s attention best and starting a Dr. Seuss collection.

I don’t feel like it’s overstating to say that the 30 minutes of library story time three times a week helped me maintain my sanity for those first six months of motherhood. It was a perfect storm of understanding librarians, mothers (and sometimes fathers, FTW) who were just as interested in literacy as I am, and a closed-off story room where I could wear something close to pajamas and let the boys crawl around without worrying they were going to put tree bark in their mouth. At a time when I could barely remember my last name, it re-focused me on the thing that has been my touchstone for my whole life, and what I hope will be one for my children: books.

Long live the library, no matter what references the internet makes available to us digitally, no matter what happens to publishers or publishing, no matter what the Old Rich White Man of the Week has to say about their lack of usefulness to them- long live the library.

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