Missing the Northeast: Libraries

I was never really a big fan of reading, as, I assume, is the case with many kids.

Sure, I had a brief stint with the Hardy Boys during fourth grade and thought Star Wars novels passed as literature in seventh grade. However, video games, re-runs of Saved By the Bell and hanging out with my friends were clear priorities to me back then.

As far as I was concerned, I did all the reading I needed to do in school and didn’t have enough time to read recreationally. Fortunately, I changed my ways and got into the habit about halfway through college. However, with a bevy of branches sprinkled around Philadelphia, and in the Northeast alone, I kind of feel bad sometimes that I never too more advantage of the services offered by the various area libraries when I was younger. Borrowing in the Northeast When I was a little kid, the only library outside of my tiny, one-room grade school library that I knew existed was the Katherine Drexel Branch on Knights Road. I remember my dad would go every other week or so to take out more books, and I would go with him, feeling secluded with the Berenstain Bears and the rest of the kids’ section of books.

As I got older, I eventually realized I could make my way to the adult section. Of course, around that time, I also realized you could borrow CDs and movies, as well…so that was the end of voluntarily taking out books for me. Occasionally, since the Katherine Drexel Branch is a fairly small library, I would need to borrow a book for school that I couldn’t find there. In that case, my dad would take me to one of the other area libraries, like the ones on Holme Avenue and Bustleton Avenue.

Of course, the one I remember best is the Northeast Regional Library on Cottman Avenue. As I said, the only library I thought existed was Katherine Drexel. Therefore, the Cottman library, with its multiple floors, seemed like a veritable book palace to me at the time. Since then, I’ve been to my fair share of libraries of various sizes. But for some reason, I’ve never felt as comfortable just spending time at a library as I did back in Philadelphia.

I spent many nights, especially around finals time, in various corners of my college library, studying and writing papers. I go to the library in the New Jersey town where I now live maybe once every two or three weeks to take out two to three books. However, the college library seemed so academic, and my current library just doesn’t seem as homelike as Katherine Drexel used to seem.

Keep Borrowing & Reading

I know that, with city’s budget constantly being called into question, there has been talk over the past few years of closing some of the branches down. I just encourage you all to keep reading and to encourage your kids and everybody else you know to keep reading. Libraries, especially the ones in the Northeast, are an amazing resource. And the first step of making sure they stay afloat is to make sure they’re being used.

Missing the Northeast is a column written by Stephen Wilson, a former Northeast resident who moved to New Jersey for work. You can read his column on the last Monday of every month.

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