FeBEARary in the LiBEARy

There are so many people who made me a reader: my parents, of course, my teachers, my friends. But Mrs. Ingenbrandt, my elementary school librarian deserves a special mention. As a first grader I could read, not just picture books, or easy readers, but real chapter books.  My teacher somehow arranged things so that I could spend long periods of time in the library reading, exempt from classroom work.  Perhaps because of this, of all the rooms in my elementary school, the library is the one I remember the most. Mrs. Ingenbrandt was installed in the basement in a room that was prone to flooding with linoleum floors and a carpeted reading area flanked by low bookshelves. The picture books were on the left as you entered and the non-fiction shelves stood serious and foreboding at the right. But straight ahead along the far wall, stretching from the very edge of the room across to the circulation desk, rose the fiction chapter books. They couldn’t have possibly stretched up to the ceiling, but it certainly seemed that way to me. By Mrs. Ingenbrandt’s desk was a special forbidden cart, books reserved for the Third Grade Book Club, books I was allowed to take out even before I was in third grade. From the first day I spent in that library, it was my home. For four years, Mrs. Ingenbrandt was my guide, one of those rare people who somehow can always match a book with a reader. It is because of her that I was introduced Caddie Woodlawn, a pioneer girl I much preferred to Laura Ingalls. When I was quite small, she gave me Carolyn Haywood book after Carolyn Haywood book. Not just the “B” Is for Betsy series, but Primrose Day as well.  I treasured (and of course had to hunt down as an adult) In Place of Katia. So many of my childhood favorites were her recommendations.  But it wasn’t just her seemingly magical knack for knowing exactly what I should read next that made her special.  It was that she made the library the kind of place you would want to be.  I loved the cosy basement haven she created as much as I loathed the new addition they built after her retirement. The new room was spacious, rays of sunlight streaming through the tall windows, gleaming new tables standing tall on fresh carpeting.  But it held no charm for me, because libraries aren’t just about the books and the rooms that house them.  A good library has to have a soul.  And Mrs. Ingenbrandt was the soul of that library and when she retired, the magic was somehow gone.  This February I’m honoring her by doing what she did every bitter cold, gray winter: having FeBEARary in the LiBEARy.  When the winter was at its worst, the library would fill up with teddy bears and the displays would, of course, be all books about bears.  So you go ahead and get your favorite stuffed bear, I’ve got plenty of books to get us through.

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3 Responses to FeBEARary in the LiBEARy

  1. Ms. Yingling says:

    I have always thought of it from the librarian’s stand point of “cult of personality”, but I like your take, as a reader, of the library having a soul. I will think about that as I go through my day today. I do regret that the library is so busy that I don’t have a place for kids to read in mine where it would be quiet.

  2. PL Whitaker says:

    I always felt that some people did not fully appreciate Mrs. I. because she was getting rather elderly, but she was terrific!! What a lovely and loving tribute to a special librarian.

  3. Mrs.N says:

    Ms. Yingling a busy library is a good thing! Maybe libraries just need more space!

    PL You best be careful with throwing around words like “rather elderly”. Mrs. Ingenbrandt wasn’t yet 70 when she retired. Ahem.

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