I’ll be reading in my old hometown of North Bend at the King County Public Library Branch on Tuesday October 17th at 7:00 p.m. (for info) I’ll be there around 6:30 for coffee.
It’s been kind of fun and weird corresponding with the libraries at North Bend, Vicki Heck and Deborah Schneider. Part of this has been because growing up in Fall City and North Bend, the libraries were the only place where I could secretly find information about things like unicorns, perhaps not the most robust, burly interest of a boy growing up among flannel and air rifle toting young men.
It took me a long time to learn to read, but once I learned to read I couldn’t help but become bookish. In age before the internet, if you wanted to know anything that wasn’t right there in front of you, you had to read about it. This seems kind of banal, now, but it’s kind of freakish to see the amount of information that my daughter who is just learning to read takes for granted. For her reading is less about finding information and more about reducing the amount of information to mere words on a page, framed in a context where she can concentrate on them.
On the Canadian border, there are sometimes seen animals resembling horses, but with cloven hoofs, rough manes, a long straight horn upon the forehead, a curled tail like a wild boar, black eyes, and a neck like that of the stag. They live in the loneliest wilderness and are so shy that the males do not even pasture with the females except in the seasons of rut, when they are not so wild. As soon as this season is past, however, they fight not only with other beasts but even with those of their own kind — Olfert Dapper, Die Unbekante Neue Welt (1673)
This quote from a book with the authority of a German title and a very old date, made me convinced or allowed me to be convinced I would come across a unicorn on the face of Mount Si or when I was trespassing in the Cedar River Watershed.
I found the book with this quote in the tiny Fall City Library at the edge of the Fall City Elementary school campus, across the street from a recently erected totem pole (even though the Snoqualmie tribe didn’t build totem poles) and the river that often jumped the banks and flooded the farmland north of the library. There was a red and white striped pole visible from the park across the street that measured the depth the river.
I wasn’t aware I could reserve books from other branches and instead had my parents drive me to the different libraries, where I would discover different things on the shelves. In the 1970s, The Snoqualmie Library was in a more modern building and the biggest of the three. I found Tintin’s comic books there — confused at first by the amount of text. Everyone was talking all of the time. I was also confused about the lack of superheroes. Even though I read Peanuts — Peanuts was a strip and Tintin was a book. They were bound in thick board and coated patterned papers. For years, I didn’t know what the covers of the books looked like and still prefer my idea of the bright comic books hidden behind the abstract library bindings.
The North Bend Library which has since moved into a large, lodge-style building used to be in a small, plain building. It had a huge collection of pulp books, and I read all of Conan from this library.
At the time, the libraries were my only ready access to books. The nearest bookstore was a used bookstore and paperback exchange in Redmond and a B.Dalton in the Bellevue Mall. Even the tiny Fall City library had a better stock of books than the B.Dalton.