The Suitcase Lady


August 10, 2010, 11:10 pm

I exist because of a library… the elegant Milwaukee Central Library to be exact.

More than a decade before I was born, the woman who would become my mother worked at the circulation desk of Milwaukee Central. A young man came in every week and checked out large piles of books. He was also checking out my mother. Eventually, he got courageous enough to ask her out on a date, and, lucky for me, she accepted.

Of course, if I wished to be more precise, I could thank Benjamin Franklin for my tenure on the planet. In 1871 he started the first free, public lending library in America. Up to this time, libraries were only for the royal, the rich or the church. Peasants did not have library cards. That would have been too dangerous.

My connection with libraries did not end at birth.I have visited some library almost every week of my life since I was four years old. For five years I had my dream job as the “Children’s Programmer” for the Greenfield Public Library. I was paid to read new children’s books, create programs for young people and present them. And for the last 24 summers I have had the pleasure of traveling the state of Wisconsin to present summer reading programs in libraries large and small.

Currently, debates rage on the need for libraries in a computer age. Who needs libraries when all knowledge is as close as your keyboard? Might I suggest that life (real not virtual) will always be found at the library. I should know.

7 Comments for this entry

  • Thelma Friedman


  • Noreen Strehlow

    I agree Mary and my response supporting bricks and mortar buildings was published in a magazine last year. I do not mind if textbooks go by the wayside and are replaced with current digital resources, but as far as literature goes, books are comfort food for the mind.

  • Ann P

    And, Mary, Wisconsin libraries are happy you are around to present fun and informative programs for the children they serve.

  • Tiara

    I love to go to the libraries to reserch things an cheack out new books and read them.

  • Naomi

    Great story (and a nice history lesson on how libraries got their start)!

  • evie

    Mary–And I remember very well the first program I saw you present–Apples, at Canterbury Books. Lucky for me I was there! eve

  • Mary Miller

    Mary, I love the romance of your parents meeting in a library!
    I can’t imagine a world without libraries – to me it feels wonderful just to enter – all that information enfolding us as we walk in.
    It always lifts my spirits!

    Mary Miller

    PS Great book from recent trip to library: The Power of Slow by C L Hohlbaum