Step by Step — Unlocking the Library Door

10 weeks ago I never imagined closing the little library where I’m the director and chief window washer — and yet, in mid-March, I suddenly taped a sign on the door, locked up, and went home.

Wednesday, I opened the door, the windows, wiped down the desk, and opened. A hummingbird appeared first, darting around the ceiling. Shortly afterward, a couple wearing masks came in. They wanted library cards and novels, and I listened to their story of driving north from Florida. In her house, she had caught hummingbirds with her hands, and stood staring at the crazed bird while her husband and I talked. In April, they had driven north, on interstates that were nearly empty. They were here to stay.

Shortly afterward, a trustee appeared, seeking a novel. Then we stood outside, spread apart on the grass. As a little rain slowly fell, we talked library business and money and raising kids and town gossip, standing near the library garden perpetually in need of weeding.

Another woman pulled into the parking lot, got out, and exclaimed, “You’re open!” Just before I walked back into the library, the hummingbird darted from the building, disappearing into the blooming lilac bush, hungry, beating its wings for dear life.

You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.

James Baldwin


Photo by Gabriela Stanciu

14 thoughts on “Step by Step — Unlocking the Library Door

  1. This is probably the most hopeful thing I have heard all week.
    That and our town pool could open next week so James can get back to lifeguard duty.

    • Some libraries may not open for a while. In a strange way, because our library is usually less used during the summer, it seemed like I could start opening. Also, in June I can immediately open all the doors and windows to get the air moving — even if that brings in the hummingbirds. What I really miss is settling down for a day’s writing at the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier. I don’t see that happening for a very long time to come. But I hope your library opens soon!

  2. Nice news about your little library opening! The hummingbird is symbolic in many cultures; Native Americans believed hummingbirds are healers and bringers of love, good luck and joy. ❤️ So,
    the hummingbird in the library seems a wonderful sign.

  3. Libraries can be a strong social equalizer. A card can open worlds…and inform one to wise things to close out. Congrats on this milestone! GT

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