Many of us have memories from childhood of a stern and matronly children's librarian who ruled the roost but who initiated us into a lifetime's love of and reverence for books. In my small Pennsylvania town, Mrs. Norma Potts had run the Children's Department of the local Carnegie Library with steely determination for many years. She had blue hair, a booming voice, and I always picture her wearing a steel gray wool coatdress. This was not the warm and fuzzy school of children's librarianship, but then, warm and fuzzy wasn't in style in those days in most aspects of dealing with children.
Our library had been built in 1904, and had marble floors, ornate carved oak woodwork, several fireplaces, stern oil portraits of prominent citizens, and Victorian glass cases filled with stuffed and posed dead birds. It was not a child-friendly atmosphere. Mrs. Potts seemed to radiate universal disapproval toward most of the children who passed through her department. Still, she instilled a love of books and reading in her charges, and above all, a respect for those library books.
A few years later, my first job was working as a page at that same library and got to know her on a professional, if not quite equal, basis. I sometimes wonder what she would think if she knew I was a librarian now. Maybe she thought I had promising qualities, maybe she thought I was pretty much just part of the rabble.