Monday, January 19, 2015

An Oasis in the Midst of a Wisconsin Winter

While it’s unseasonably warm, we are nonetheless in the midst of an ugly Wisconsin winter. 

It’s just cold enough to require outerwear and mud is as prevalent as snow right now.

Screen time at home is to be strictly monitored. But, when it
happens inside the confines of a library? No pro-blemo. 
That said, the probability of acquiring cabin fever is likely greater under these conditions than if it was constantly 5 degrees with two feet of snow on the ground.

At least then we could go out sledding. Right now our entertainment options outside the home are limited.

In the midst of this limbo, we’ve been keeping the winter blues at bay in some unlikely places.

The most unlikely place for me is — without question — the local library.

I was surprised to hear that public libraries still exist but they do and, it turns out, they can be fantastic. The one closest to our home is perhaps the nicest library I’ve ever been in.

There are little play sets located throughout. There are computers sprinkled around the place featuring nothing but kid-friendly games and programming. 

It’s a spacious, comfortable building — and a tangible expression of our annual donation to the city in the form of absurdly high property taxes.

That said, we like going there. But, it's taken some getting used to as my earliest memories of the library are less than favorable. 

Libraries seemed to be places where kids were stifled, veritable wastelands of childhood fun. 

I remember librarians forcing us to sit still, to be quiet and to listen intently as they explained to us all how the card catalogue worked. 
These amazing revelations and more await!!! (Actually, I'm
just trying to sound cool. This was particularly neat.)

Now all these years later, I know I speak for millions who went to school in the 80's and 90's in saying a hearty "Thanks for nothing," to each and every librarian who wasted our time learning what they had to have known was a system poised to be replaced by computers.

But learn it we did. 

I'd also like to extend a huuuuge thank you to the librarian who said "No," to me when, in the midst of a lecture on the "Book It Program" I asked to go to the bathroom. 

I was seven years old and let's just say, at that age, it really didn't matter if she said "yes" or "no" it was going to happen. It did and it wasn't pretty. (Too much information? Sorry about that.)

Finally, a huge, huge thanks to the librarian who wasted 30 minutes of my life explaining to my classmates and I why books that win the "Caldecott" medal are somehow better than those that don't. Do you know what a Caldecott award is? 

Are your shelves lined only with books that have won one? 

Suffice it to say that, if left to my own devices, the library is not the first place the Blackwell clan would be looking for its entertainment. 

Fortunately for us, Mrs. Blackwell's childhood didn't include scars inflicted by librarians. 


Thanks to my wife being on the lookout for activities for the boy, I’ve been to a couple of local public libraries now and, it turns out, most of these places are built to accommodate kids — and their suffering parents.
And if it's cold enough, we go ice skating instead of the
library.

And, whether they’ve got computers and play sets doesn’t matter. Aisles in the kids' book section serve as runways. Shelves exist solely to serve as peekaboo stations and there are loads of other kids around for my kid to engage with.

Ultimately, it's just a huge benefit to have a space where he can stretch his running legs, see other people and remember what it’s like in the outside world.

And as he does this, I follow him around ensuring that he doesn’t try to muscle in on another kid who is enjoying a computer or otherwise find trouble. 

For her part, Mrs. Blackwell finds the books that’ll keep him entertained when we get home.

Given my painfully average record as a student, it seems a bit like penance that I now find myself voluntarily spending time in a place that I avoided so much when I was younger.

On the flipside, maybe the boy will start to feel at home there for the next 16 years or so. 

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