Life at Child-Level in the New Easton Library

by Bill Peak

One of the great things about the new Easton library is the check-out desk in the children's wing. In the old library children had to check out their materials along with everyone else at the regular, adult circulation desk. Which meant that, at check-out, your average six year-old found herself looking up at a great escarpment of desk that rose before her like the cliffs at Dover. From somewhere among the crags atop this massive formation, a voice would boom out: “MAY I HELP YOU!”

But no more. The check-out desk in the new children's wing (like all the furniture there), is cut to children's size. A six year-old can stand before it as comfortably as you or I would the check-out counter at the neighborhood grocery. And they do. Which brings me to the other great thing about this new children's desk. On rare occasions, Miss Rosemary takes a break, which means I get to work out there. The experience never fails to make my day.

Working behind the children's desk, you sit in a chair that places you at child-level. In the old days, children approached the adult check-out desk as one might the North Face at Everest, but they come up to our new children's desk with all the assurance and confidence that innocence can bestow. They look you in the eye. They state their business. You are no longer distant and forbidding library person but close and approachable fellow-being.

Yesterday, a little girl came up to me and explained in some detail why her little brother (who was not present) needed a library card. She told me all about it with a sort of exaggerated propriety, as if she were playing not big sister but mother. Taking my cue from hers, I replied more or less as I would have to a parent, and the child accepted my explanation of the steps necessary to procure a library card with an ease and maturity that would have done credit to someone much older.

Next, adopting a tone I guessed was closer to that of her natural voice, the little girl asked me where the Junie B. Jones books were. I explained that the Junie B. Jones books were fiction, and that, in the library, works of fiction were placed on the shelves in alphabetical order by the author's last name. A look of incandescent revelation came over the child. “So that's why I couldn't find them!” she exclaimed. The little girl had learned something, something she clearly felt would be forever important to her. The fact that works of fiction were arranged in the library by the author's last name had now become an ineradicable part of this child's store of knowledge—and I had seen it happen. How often do we get to witness such an event? Better yet, how often do we get to play midwife to its conception?

Small wonder I so enjoy working in the Talbot County Free Library, and, in particular, in the new Easton library's children's wing. I thank the good people of Talbot County for entrusting me with so important, and so delightful, a task.