July 14, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.

Reading: A Lifelong Passion

By Jennifer Harris Villiger

As I drove to the 25th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Hope Branch Library on Wednesday, July 12, I reminisced about the amount of time I have spent in the Hope Library over the course of my life. I love to read and know that the Hope Library played (and continues to play) a big part in my reading adventures.

I started thinking about how old I was when I learned to read. I found my report cards when I got home from the dedication and saw that I received an “N” for “Say ABCs” the first grading period of kindergarten (but “Y” for all the other grading periods) and there are just blank boxes for “Recognize letters” so I guess we weren’t even asked about that. But by the second semester of 2nd grade I was reading at an 11th grade level according to Mrs. Moore (later Johnson). (I also received several Bs in Citizenship with arrows drawn from them to a single word — Talking. Go figure.) So somewhere between kindergarten and 2nd grade I must have figured it out! My 2nd grade year was also the year my mom became the Hope Elementary School librarian. So I’m pretty sure I had every opportunity available to get my hands on numerous books.

My early childhood memories of summertime include going to the library and spending time with Imogene Emmert at the former building on the west side of the square. I loved the summer reading clubs. I told her one summer that I was going to read every book in the Children’s section and checked out a stack of books from the “A” authors. That didn’t last long—I found many books that did not interest me at all. Until the end of 4th grade, I lived at the corner of Jackson and Market Streets and I do not recall my mom ever letting me walk all the way to the library (and across State Rd 9) by myself, but I know I went frequently with older neighborhood friends. I saw Mrs. Emmert in the front row of seats at the dedication, went and knelt in front of her, and introduced myself. I told her I felt like I spent more time in the summers with her than with my family.

As I got older, I spent less time in the library — friends and sports took priority. In college, I mostly avoided the university library except when I had to go check out albums to listen to through big headphones in a small room for my music class. (Man, that sounds like the Dark Ages. Someone please tell me you know what I’m talking about!) I started visiting the library more regularly after I had children. We had tons of books in our house, but I wanted to show the boys all the library had to offer besides books — puzzles, the puppet theater, computer games, videos, cassette tapes and CDs. I took them to story time also. Most of the time we went to the Columbus Library, but we would go to the Hope Library if we were visiting “Gramma and Grandad.”

As an adult, I now go to the Hope Library about once a week. Things that I put on hold I choose to be picked up at Hope, although I live closer to the main library in Columbus. The staff is very friendly, the building is so clean, and I always find plenty of books to take home. There are times I tell myself that I am just going to return what I have and not get anything else. Then I end up with seven books and four DVDs! I have recently discovered Hoopla and have downloaded a couple of books that I enjoyed listening to on the airplane on two recent trips. However, I find that I like a “real” book more than listening to one or reading one on my Kindle. I also am one who likes to save money, so I am thrilled that now at the bottom of my library checkout list it says, “By using the library, you have saved: $xxx.xx.” This week I only checked out two books and two DVDs and saved $106.42!

I have learned so many things by reading books. Also, a lot of trivial items that helps when I watch Jeopardy! with my husband. Many times he will say, “How do you know that?” and I’ll reply, “I read it in a book.” It is amazing the times that I will pause the TV before the contestant answers and shout, “I just read that in a book today/yesterday/last week!” I know you can look up anything on the Internet these days, but I like that I could check out library books about national parks in Utah when planning a recent family trip. Or I can check out a cookbook and try a new recipe without having to zoom in to read one on my phone.

My library card is in a plastic sleeve because it is broken in half from so much use. I will not get it replaced because I have the number memorized. It is something I hope to have the rest of my life. There is a video from the June 28, 1998, Dedication Ceremony that you can find by going to mybcpl.org and clicking on the Hope Branch Library 25th Anniversary rectangle. (Warning: It is a very shaky video.) In the video, then-Indiana State Senator Robert Garton quotes, “We learn to read and then we read to learn.” So go to your local library and learn something new!