This is another writing assignment from the annals of the WordPress Blogging U’s Writing 101 courses. The reference for this writing assignment is a daily prompt called Ode to a Playground. This library was actually closed years ago but I felt a need to reference it as it was very close to my heart. I should preface this by saying I am not a Eulogy writer. This is one of the reasons I am doing these, to improve my writing. Cheers!
I knew nothing of the history of Pimlico Branch 21. All I knew was that it was a safe place to go in a rather rough neighborhood. It was a place where I could allow my imagination to soar through reading books and listening to the stories told by the Librarians.
The first time I went to this particular library was during my school year of the First Grade. At the time, I lived in mortal terror of the place because it was a high altar of books and I was someone who could barely read and write. Yet, no one among the staff made fun of me when I checked my first book out. I can still recall it to this day. It was a Curious George picture book on how to make a paper hat or paper sailboat depending on how far you were willing to follow the instructions.
Of course, I got derided by most of the students and the teacher but the Librarians never made fun of me once. In my mind, they became the Graces from that moment on. After that, I begged my mother to take me to the library and sought out all the educational programming I could find in order to learn to read. It was all fine and well checking things out and returning them. However, I wanted to truly utilize the Library as it was meant to be used. So I worked pretty hard that year until I could read through the book Ox Cart Man without struggling.
At the end of the year was the Summer Reading Program. At about the same time, PBS brought on the BBC adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. When I saw that it was a book, I knew I had to read it, regardless of the challenge. There was my local library waiting with most of the series available for checkout. I picked up the title I recognized, not knowing at the time that it was a series. It took me two weeks to read through one hundred ten pages of writing but I managed it. Once I’d finished with that book, I checked out the rest of the series from Pimlico that they had available.
For several years, they had all the books excepting The Last Battle. So, for several years, I read through the series and beyond, going through the children’s section of the library like a forest fire in a pine forest. The Librarians were ever so helpful and knew me on sight by name. I was never put down or disrespected in any way when I went there. Eventually, they finally got the Last Battle into the library and I was able to read it. It changed my views on a lot of things I was raised to believe in.
Then, one day, tragedy struck. During the riots, after the Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of the four police officers, someone firebombed the library. Thankfully, the incendiary device only hit a storeroom but, still, who in their right mind would firebomb the one place in the neighborhood where education was free for all? If there was a disconnect between myself and that neighborhood before, it was nothing compared with after that happened.
A few years later, the Proposal from Hell was mentioned. I nearly had a heart attack. They were suggesting closing twenty-eight of the City’s libraries as a cost cutting measure. Included on the chopping block was my beloved Pimlico Branch 21. It was at this point that I knew, I would never vote for the person who suggested the cuts regardless of the capacity of the office they went for. Once the library was closed, it was suggested that people in the neighborhood surrounding Branch 21 go to the next closest libraries.
That wouldn’t have worked well for most patrons as one was nearly in the County along Reisterstown Road and the other was well into the City at the corner of Pennsylvania and North Avenues. Both were miles of walking distance from the easier to get to Branch 21. After several protests, a rotating Bookmobile was suggested and implemented. By then though, I had given up on the notion of a Community Library and began buying my own books. It wasn’t much but it was better than having to wait weeks and weeks for the Bookmobile to come with a checkout limit when one is used to reading dozens of books in a week’s time.
Even though the library eventually opened again, that drought in availability was the death knell for it. It was closed again, for good this time, a few years later.
So, I’d like to take this moment to remember Pimlico Branch 21 of the Enoch Pratt Free Library system. My foundation in education and the catalyst of my zest for learning.