Yesterday, Kelsey returned from the library and exclaimed, “I love the library!” In her newfound freedom as a driver, she asked if she would be allowed to go off to spend time at the library, and I told her, “Of course!” We don’t so much, anymore, “go to” the library. Unfortunately, the library has changed. The old, wonderful books have been replaced by “modern” stories, the latest book addressing the issues thought to be faced by the modern child in a dysfunctional society. And computers have been added to many libraries, noisy games and characters onscreen instructing youngsters how to use the computer, speak to empty stools in front of them. Books with titles and subjects inappropriate to be whispered in private, sit boldly in the middle of aisles on special displays. So, mostly these days, we do book searches at home online, order our books to be sent to our local small-town library, and we pick them up. Fortunately, in the country libraries, the wonderful “old” books are still available.
As she effused over the wonderful books she’d found, she marveled at the privilege we have! Other countries don’t have this privilege! She was suddenly awestruck at how wonderful it is, and how much she loved the library!
“There was a little girl there and when her mother told her that they had to leave, she screamed! She didn’t want to go!”
I smiled. It did my heart good to see the fruit of my efforts and training to make my children lovers of books. And hearing about the little girl reminded me of the library-training that made it an enjoyable experience (mostly).
“Do you remember our trips to the library? I asked her. “When you were little, I would stop before we’d go in the door and remind you, ‘Alright, no running, stay by me, use a small voice, and if you don’t obey, I’ll have to take you into the bathroom and you’ll get a spanking. OK? OK.’ Then we’d go in. At home, we had gone over the full instructions. I was very strict, but it was worth it! We had so much fun going to the library!
We started with just a couple of books. We kept a basket by the door in the living room where the library books had to be put away every time, so they wouldn’t get mixed in with the other books. I wrote down on a notebook page in my Master notebook the books we’d checked out, including author, when they were due, and which library we’d checked them out of, and then put “Books Due” on the date on the calendar when we would need to return them. Before we established this system, we had many library fines, which was very frustrating, but if I followed my plan, everything worked very well. After they proved that they were able to take care of these books, and return them to their proper place and we returned them to the library on time, then we upped the number to 5, and then 7 (each!) I had large cloth or leather bags with handles that I bought at Goodwill that we carried our books in.
“Yes, there were times when I had to take you into the bathroom for discipline, but not too many!” I mused to Kelsey.
I would set Kelsey down on the floor with a few board books when she was very little, and then I would help Dane find his. Constant reinforcement of the rules, and meting out the consequences quickly and unemotionally, helped. Shorter trips at first, lengthened over time, worked best.
They learned fairly quickly that it wasn’t worth acting up in the library. If you wanted to go again, you’d better behave. I also, once in awhile, rewarded a really good experience, in which they’d behaved exceptionally well, with an ice cream cone or some treat like that. And I would sometimes dangle that carrot out in front to give them an incentive.
First I taught them what appropriate behavior in the library looked like. I explained why it was important to the enjoyment of everyone to follow these rules. (Libraries were quiet places, places to study and read. You might knock an older person down if you were running. It was certainly disturbing when a child cried or threw a tantrum in the library–they witnessed this in other children, and would look genuinely shocked when it happened 🙂 Taking care of the books meant that others could enjoy them, too–But we always taught them to take care of everything, because we love God, and everything belongs to Him, so we want to be good stewards and treat it carefully out of love for Him. The librarians are our friends, and are there to help us if we need help. You may ask them a question about a book, if you ask very politely. Say “excuse me, please.” Don’t interrupt. Listen very carefully to what she tells you and say thank you when you’re done.) We had discussions about libraries and we even visited the downtown Big library on a field trip, which was very fun.
Based, then, upon this teaching and our own family discipline, the rules were: if you don’t obey when I tell you something or you behave inappropriately, (e.g. run away when I call you to come, say “No” to me, go roaming out of the room where you’ve been told to stay, mistreat the books, scream or cry loudly, etc.) we will go into the bathroom where you will get a spanking. If this happens twice, we will leave and take no books out. You may take out 3 books, to be approved by Mom. You stay right in this area, and when it’s time to leave (I would always tell them how long we were going to stay, and give them a 15-minute warning to checkout), if you make a fuss, whine or cry, you won’t be able to take out any books next time. And you must stay right by me in the checkout line and if I have to talk to you about behaving, you won’t come next time! Yes, I was very strict, but it was worth it! They knew what was expected of them, they behaved very well (after awhile) and we had so much fun going to the library!
When I was a little girl, my father was the janitor-engineer at the Minneapolis downtown library, and on Saturdays when he would clean, sometimes we children would be allowed to go with him. What a wonderful memory! The shelves upon shelves of books seemed to be giants to me! The long rows between the books seemed to go on forever! The building was old, the ceilings high, the architecture of a bygone, more respectful era. The massive staircase to the second floor so wide that you could run back and forth on one step if you wanted to. Surrounded by books without number, thousands upon thousands. Your footsteps rang out, and your voice echoed in the hugeness of the building. The experience of its vastness was only intensified because we were the only ones there! The library was closed and we were allowed the excruciating joy of being there all by ourselves! I’m sure this was the beginning of my love for libraries. I’m so glad it’s something I’ve been able to pass on to my children.