Today I was in the public library of a town I had been visiting for several months, long enough to see the seasons change. It's a small town, in a different state, in a different part of the country from where I normally live.
Books were stacked on tables and on carts, waiting for their next destination. I wondered if they were somehow different from the collection of books in my hometown library. Always, it seems, I want to inspect the cover of each and every one as I pass, delighting in designs and colors, and how they present themselves to the world. They are such magic carpets.
In the moments of waiting in line to check out this week's newly found treasure, my focus was drawn to the people around me: this woman, that man, those teenagers. What a mix. A young librarian offered to get a glass of water for an older man who had coughed.
The librarian who was checking out books on this day knew the older woman ahead of me in line, and they greeted each other. The woman had a smooth face, a casual smile, and a perfect coif. She was dressed in pastels. I noticed that although she wasn't overweight, her chosen titles were books about losing weight. Perhaps they were for someone else.
At the next counter, a middle-aged Mexican man was applying for a library card. He trained his dark eyes intently on the librarian, as if his eyes could talk, as if she might not understand him as he slowly spelled his name and musically trilled the "r" once, then twice. I wondered what treasure this man from afar would find in a library of English words.
Three teenagers, all in baggy clothes and with expressionless faces, were also getting library cards. They reminded me of a flock of migrating birds swooshing through the sunlit space. What books would they gather today for their journey, and what in 10 or 20 years?
I reached the head of my line. With efficient movements and a gracious smile, the librarian scanned the book I'd chosen to borrow - small and beige with thick brown lettering - short stories by a writer of the region. It was well-worn, I noticed as I tucked it under my arm, probably like the characters within its pages.
Out I walked, past the rows and rows of books - neatly placed with a tender touch where they belonged, if only temporarily. So lovely. Such colors and sizes. Some old, some new. Such stories. So much like people, I thought.