By Ronald W.
My very first trip to a public library was in my hometown of East Haven CT, the “Hagaman Memorial Library”. It was on a field trip in grade school, I was no older than 7. I still remember the experience, starting with the entrance to the building at the time; the steps leading up to the huge doors and once inside the marble floors, the huge staircase, oak furniture and the portraits on the walls. I knew I was inside a special space.
The class attended “story hour” that day in the Children’s section; we were told that “story hour” would occur every Wednesday after school for those who wished to sign up to attend. The whole class received library cards that day.
Fortunately, I and some of the other neighborhood kids who lived across the street were lucky ones whose mother’s schedules could afford us to attend each week, our moms alternating driving weeks. We all enjoyed that story telling hour immensely. While awaiting our ride home we would all pick out books to check out take home, read and return the following week. After 8 weeks “story hour” ended and it was summer.
The trips to the library have never ended and only gotten better. Summer reading lists through middle school, using the Hagaman reference room for writing research papers in high school and then onto local colleges utilizing my student ID to access local university libraries including New Haven Public Library, Southern CT State Library, University of New Haven, Quinnipiac College Library, and Yale Cross Campus Library.
Upon graduating college in 1978, I took a job with a local micropublisher. I soon discovered that not only could I make money to pay off my college loans but I would be able to have a working environment that could keep me in and around libraries and I enjoyed photography. I had become a traveling microfilm operator capturing source documents for my employer. I had found my dream job.
Microfilm assignments took me on a journey which kept me working in world renowned libraries. I started with image capture of American Poetry collections at the John Hay Library at Brown University. Next up, was the Theatre Collection at the “Pusey Library” at Harvard. While onsite at Harvard I will never forget the main entrance steps to the “Widener Library” just across the walkway, I couldn’t help but to think – steps on steroids. Looking from ground level a person at the top entering this monumental building appeared quite small. I couldn’t wait to get inside and once inside the stacks, it was just incredible. I obtained a library card due to my work affiliation and spent many lunch hours utilizing the resource. Onsite assignments at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, The Kinsey Institute Library at IU, Boston Public, New York Public and most recently setting up imaging vendors at the British Library ST. Pancreas, the National Archive at Kew to name a few along with many others have all broadened and fulfilled my attachment to libraries as that special space.
Now in my sixties and thinking back, I will never forget where it all started. I don’t remember the story so much as the experience and will never forget the “Hagaman Memorial Library” and all the wonderful people who worked there.