Plastic Magic

“I don’t believe you.”  I think I said this a million times.

“It’s true,” my mother, obviously exasperated with my disbelief, replied again and again.

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m sure – I wouldn’t lie to you about this.” Again she answered to my disbelief.

“As many as I want?”  I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a flaw some place in her statement.

“Yes, as many as you want. You can get as many as you want.”  We went around and around again.

Even at age 6, I couldn’t believe I was allowed to get as many books as I wanted from the library.  AS MANY AS I WANTED. I don’t think there was another instance in my life where I was allowed an unlimited amount of something I wanted (we’re excluding peas here because, well I wanted to limit those from day one).  Could that little plastic card really give me access to ANYTHING I WANTED IN THE LIBRARY?  I was quite stunned. I stood there in our small village library with my arms filled up with books – all sorts of books. Picture books, Snoopy books, chapter books.  I wasn’t sure how all this worked – all I knew was that I could feed this ravenous monster inside me with books. As many books as I wanted….and when they were all read, someone would take me back to this magical place and let me get MORE books.  FOR FREE. It seemed the only thing I had to do was read and return them before the date stamped on the little rectangular piece of paper attached to the inside cover.  Since I had no concept of time, that wasn’t even a bother for me.

All I could think of was “What an amazing world I live in.”


“As many as I want?” My son couldn’t seem to grasp the idea.

“Yes,” I replied,”as many as you want.”

“We rent them? Does it cost as much as at the video rental store?” He asked.

“No, we don’t ‘rent’ them. We ‘borrow’ them. It means we check them out and then promise to bring them back after a certain amount of time.”  I think I had explained this a million times.

“Are you sure? That doesn’t seem right.” Argued my precocious 6 year old. “Are you saying I can get as many books as I want for free from this place and all you do is show them a plastic card?”

“Yes,” I explained, “that’s how a library works.”

He shook his head in disbelief as he approached the counter with his arms filled with books.  Picture books, Snoopy books, chapter books.  He conveyed to the librarian his disbelief and she assured him I was not telling tales out of school.

Another generation stunned by the magic of a piece of plastic.

About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
This entry was posted in Childhood, Education, Family, Humor, Language, Librarian, love, Parenting, Random Thoughts, Reading, Relationships, Story, Words and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to Plastic Magic

  1. klyse3 says:

    Ha! My mother finally limited the number of books I could check out when I came home with 29 (and not picture books either…). So I just demanded bi-weekly trips to the library instead of monthly. 😀 I cannot wait to share that magic with my children!

    • hee hee – that is funny!!!! My son volunteers with his grandmother at The Friends of the Library and comes home with so many books to keep on top of the library books – it makes me so damn happy – but he does love TV and video games ….but at least there’s love of books too….

      Your kids will be bedazzled too!

  2. I’m reminded of the scene in Roald Dahl’s Matilda when she learns she can take books home from the library.

  3. amac says:

    Thank you for making me feel really really good … read so much about how people think libraries are a dying institution , so this gives me faith. Plus as a librarian, I see this excitement every day and I couldn’t love my job more. Libraries rock.

  4. It’s the only plastic I love! I admit, I think I’ll enjoy the library a lot more when my kids can read the books themselves. If I read chapter books to them, I’m ok but those little picture books put me right to sleep. I’ve seriously had to take a nap in the middle of reading a pile of books.

    • Hee hee -reading yourself to sleep. Ironically, both of us are fast in the library. We scan the shelves and get a stupid amount of books – even though I know I now can’t actually read that much (seems like I should stop cleaning and cooking to make time for reading) but I cannot help myself from checking them out.

      I did love it when D started reading –

  5. Last week, we punished our 8-year old by not allowing her to read in the morning.

    “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO!! I’ll be so BORED!!!”

    Taking books away as a punishment. What a concept! When I was a kid, you couldn’t give them to me.

    • Ha! We started off by taking TV away as a punishment and that’s what really made my kid like reading more – although he was an avid book lover as a tot…but now, if he’s in trouble and loses his ‘privileges’ reading is one and he says the EXACT SAME THING!

      The other day for the first time EVER, he turned off the TV to read. I almost fell down.

  6. Maggie O'C says:

    I wish my kids were amazed by libraries, sigh.
    Saturday was my favorite day when I was in grade school because my mom would go grocery shopping and drop me off at the library and pick me up when she was done. I could only get 10 books at a time but I always got 10 and read them all so I could go back and get 10 more the next week. I loved being in that little library which has now been remodeled. I miss the little cards in the back of the book with the return date stamped on them. Bar codes aren’t as interesting!

    Great post!

  7. We had a bookmobile come around when I was a kid. A big van filled with perfection. It was wonderful. Now hey have free CDs and free magazines. Why ever pay for anything?

  8. Amy Reese says:

    You’re not going to believe this, Denise, but I read your post while I was at the library! Ha! How cool is that? This library was bustling, too, proof that we still need them. I don’t take them for granted. My kids aren’t turned on to libraries like I was as a kid. I need to work on that one. My mom used to take us to check out books. Fond memories.

    • Nothing cool you experience would surprise me, Amy! Libraries are so much more than a repository for books – like you said.

      My I would like my son to be more tuned into the library – but now that I’m going there on a regular basis for research, he’s getting more books AND his grandmother volunteers for Friends of the Library and he helps her there too…

      I loved being taken to the library 🙂

  9. hbsuefred says:

    And they still have real live people in them, though not enough!

  10. Carrie Rubin says:

    “Are you sure? That doesn’t seem right.”—Haha, love that.

    The library has always been and will always be one of my favorite places on earth.

  11. Brooke says:

    I love the library! I could easily waste away a whole day there.

  12. Slo-Man says:

    Love libraries! And bookstores too! I can spend hours…

  13. rossmurray1 says:

    “That doesn’t seem right.” The only thing better would have been if he’d said, “That’s socialism!”

  14. Paul says:

    Awwww, so neat Rutabaga. Still, to this day – 50 years later – it still strikes me as such an amazing idea – I can get as many books as I want with that little card. It’s almost like magic.The older I get, the more amazing it gets. It’s like a complete reversal of the whole capitalistic. ownership, consumer concept that drives our world more and more everyday. And the way it still amazes young children – as if we had told them that when you pass through doors of the library, you’re entering a completely different world where whatever you want from elephants in Africa to submarines to new friends to as many adventures you want are all for free. Still blows me away.

    Thanks Rutabaga!

  15. Twindaddy says:


  16. NotAPunkRocker says:

    The difference between the public library and the school library was a huge deal for me. So many choices.

    Love this story, here’s to keeping the magic alive.

  17. Libraries are indeed magical places!

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