Blame it on Michelle, one of the knowledgeable volunteers at the Redding Public Library. I was looking for a particularly arcane section of the library and she passed me by pushing a cartload of books. I strode at her side and asked for directions. As she answered, we continued into her domain for the day, the children’s section.
I looked around at the colorful array of books and artwork and was flooded with a memory of my youth and introduction into the magical world of books and how they charted the course of my life forever.
When I was about 6 years old, our family moved to Alameda from Oakland. Down the street was the beginning of my future. It was a small Craftsman house sitting behind the main library. It held the exclusive Children’s Library, and I know from my travels around the world it is the finest I’ve ever seen.
Finding that library was like finding a whole new world of experiences. I became a voracious reader and all my life have fallen back on that golden vein of knowledge, emotions and, most importantly, words.
But, it was a single event that opened the door wide.
Every now and then authors or illustrators of children’s books would stop by the Children’s Library to promote their latest book.
One Saturday morning I was up front waiting for a well-known San Francisco author and illustrator named Wolo. I remember his book featured a little boy in Africa and his adventures with all the animals. While Wolo read from his book, he would draw the subject of the reading on a large art pad sitting on a tri-pod. I became mesmerized with the page after page of drawings, so smoothly and easily rendered. On my way home I repeated to myself “I can do that. I can do that.” My days of growing up became hours of drawing, creating comic books with a friend and wonderful artist, painting, cartooning, etc; a slight case of obsession was the name of the game.
Yet, with all that frenzied activity, I continued to voraciously soak up the printed word, as a child, beginning with Big Little Books and onto the adventures of Tom Swift, historic tales of derring-do by Frank Yerby and early adulthood with Edgar Allan Poe, Aldous Huxley – the list goes on for seemingly forever.
Some years later, by karma, coincidence, plain old luck, who knows, I found myself working as an advertising account representative, graphic designer, cartoonist and photojournalist. Reading, even today, is the most important part of my life and ongoing education of an enduring world of changes and surprises. Libraries, such as the surprising Redding Library, more so today than ever, are the foundations of learning and entertainment and an introduction to so many worlds, real and imagined.
The world of technology will continue to grow, change, invent and re-invent forever, but the world of reading will remain the foundation of learning and delight it has been for thousands of years in whatever form.
Al Auger is a veteran journalist with umpty-umph years as a staffer and now a freelancer specializing in travel, skiing, automotive, and jazz and blues. He writes a weekly automotive column in The Reporter of Vacaville and a monthly travel article in Siliconeer Magazine.