Today is the 20th anniversary of the Mississauga Central Library, a fitting day for my first blog post. I have fond childhood memories of visiting the Central branch; my dad would drive us down on the occasional summer Saturday morning. It was so delightful to be free from the usual chore of grocery shopping and instead spend the day luxuriating in the company of books, language and literature. The Central branch was so much more expansive than my cozy home branch.
Like a homing pigeon, I’d zero in on the shelves lining the right side of the first floor (it’s been renovated since and the arrangement is different today). There, I’d find several volumes of “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz. Having read and re-read the two or three copies at my local branch, this was richness! (Later, I discovered and mastered the ability to place holds.) I’d eagerly devour the strips about Charlie Brown’s unrequited love for the little red-haired girl, Sally’s school tribulations, Snoopy’s many alter egos (including the World War I Flying Ace), Peppermint Patty’s battle against the dreaded D-minus and many more. I’d vacillate in the delicious dilemma of which books to read on site and which to check out.
On the other side of the first floor were the turnstiles housing Young Adult novels. Here, I’d gravitate hurriedly to the Sweet Valley High series, created by Francine Pascal and written by Kate William (no relation to the royal couple). I’d soak in the exciting adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, identical twins living in Sweet Valley, California. Some novels would contain tantalizing excerpts of the next book in the series; it always gave me a feeling of triumphant discovery to find the newest book on the turnstile and eagerly discover the events about which I had been speculating and fantasizing, based on the excerpt.
Today, the library has changed significantly. Children’s literature has been moved to the basement and I can no longer find the large selection of Peanuts comic books in which I used to delight so heartily. The SVH collection, although still located on the first floor, has dwindled considerably. Several of the changes are welcome, such as the “Lit Pit” which provides a place for patrons to eat and drink, thus making it possible to spend the “whole day” at the library, far from the madding crowd or at least Square One, the largest shopping mall in Ontario.
I am also a big fan of the study rooms on the second and third floors; judging by the challenge in finding an unoccupied space, I am not the only one. Several computers and study tables have been added, the research facilities now available to students are more diverse and accessible than before and patrons can receive Twitter updates via @mississaugalib. This is all evidence of a library that has kept up with the times, finding itself an integral part of the 21st century and remaining an instrumental tool in public education.
Still, when I am feeling nostalgic for “the good old days”, I wander over to the other side of the SVH bookshelf and run my finger along the M’s until I land on that icon of Canadian literature, Lucy Maud Montgomery. Diving into “Anne of Green Gables”, “Further Chronicles of Avonlea” or “Kilmeny of the Orchard”, my soul is filled with comfort and peace. I can go home again.