And imagining that scent, the scent of a room full of old and well-loved books, it brought me back to the Wolfson Memorial Library. It had a huge downstairs library for children, and attached room full of young adult books. My mom used to take my sisters and I there at least weekly, and I poured over every one of its stacks, many time, mining out every book that I might read. That's where I found L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz books, the Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, and so many others.
I realized it had been way too long since I'd been in a room full of old books. Just Saturday I was in a book store, but it's not the same, new books don't have the same scent, the same aura at all - there's something about the thumbed over pages and broken spines, the card-catalog inserts and dewey decimal labels that make a library a special place, as near to sacred to me in both mind and heart.
Years ago the Wolfson was closed and moved to a community center that also includes the police station. The old building was for a while sold to some folks who had the sort of kooky but sort of cool idea to turn it into a permanent Renn Faire sort of place; they started a faux-medieval "tavern" in what was once the kids' library, and intended to use the upstairs as a combination performance center and knick-knack shop. Unfortunately it wasn't terribly well executed, the concrete building blocks were painted over and given an amateurish veneer to look like a wattle-and-daub wall. The menu at the restaurant was just meatball subs, fried mozzarella and frozen pizza slices, the kind of stuff you'd get at a snack bar. But a girl I knew was determined to see that crazy idea succeed, and so she'd bring along a wool cloak in her car, and every day on her lunch break drive over to the old library and get her lunch there.
On one hand, I loved the idea of such a creative, nerdy place...but putting it in the library that had been the portal to so many worlds, adventures and explorations - a surer guide to the universe than any TARDIS - seemed like an ignominious end to a noble career. Unsurprisingly the attempt didn't succeed, and not too long after they closed. I don't know what happened to the building after that - what is it today? Was it just knocked down and replaced with something modern and tedious?
I wish I could go back to that place today. At least I know before too long I'll have good reason to visit a children's library just as often, I can't imagine any child of mine not being a reader. I just have to find one here, in my new home, or wherever I fetch up, washed by the tides of fate.
And I know this - I need to smell some old books, and soon.