Booked up


Photo: Kia Feliciano

Some people in grade school were teacher’s pets. Not me. I was always the librarian’s pet. At my elementary school, the librarian made a practice of giving me first dibs on hot, new children’s books. I was a regular at the children’s book room at the local Carnegie library. At my insistence, the tiny, elderly queen of that establishment was a dinner guest Chez Lloyd on occasion.

Madison's Carnegie Free Library, decades before I discovered its second floor children's book room

So it makes sense that by my sub-teenhood I was spending much of my Saturday and after-school time cruising the book stores around the University of Wisconsin campus, in particular one that specialized in used and occasionally rare and out of print books. I didn’t know at the time that the owner, Paul Askins, was planning a crucial move to a new store closer to campus.

Facing the logistical nightmare of moving tens of thousands of volumes even a short distance, Paul drafted the kid who was always around to help out. The benefits of what turned out to be a long term part time job proved to be mutual. The modest cash was welcome, plus I got to take out a large chunk of pay in books. My shelves at home began to fill up, even though some of my choices back in the day baffle me now.

Gradually, the collection began to reflect my growing professional interests in journalism and related subjects. And it kept growing and following me around. Countless times I’ve boxed up books and hauled them off to a new destination. I can’t even imagine not being surrounded by them, though some near and dear to me sure can.