I got my first library card when I was around 10 years old. We lived in a small town that didn’t have a public library, but every 3 weeks a bus filled with books would roll into town and park at the local high school.

Book Bus day was always a good day.

I’d get home from school, dump my backpack inside, and grab my library card. After a 3 block walk I climbed the steps of the Bookmobile, and was transported to another world. The smell of old books lingered in the air, and I’d inhale deeply as I made my way to the children’s section at the back. I’d grab a step stool to make sure I didn’t miss any titles hiding on the highest shelves; yellow hardback Nancy Drew books were always a good find. I’d find a number of books I knew would be great, and a few new ones to round things out. When my selections had been made, I’d slowly amble to the front of the bus to have my books signed out.

The driver/librarian was a stout, gruff looking man; but he always had a ready smile for kids whose books would take them somewhere beyond the Canadian prairies for the next 3 weeks. He’d remind me of the due date and stamp it inside the front cover.

I’d walk home based on muscle memory, rather than sight. My eyes were focused on the books in my hands, rotating books through the stack in order to decide which one I would jump into first.

Sometimes my mom and I would make theĀ 30 minute trip and spend the evening at one of the city libraries. I loved the thrill of searching the shelves. I had unhurried time to browse and choose books that appealed to me. I brought thingsĀ home for no other reason than they looked interesting. Driving home with a pile of new books broadened the horizon of my world. I travelled to places through those pages that I never could have otherwise.

One day my mom and I were washing the car in the city and who came around the corner? The Book Bus Guy! I was stunned. What was he doing here? It was like bumping into a teacher outside of school – my brain couldn’t compute that this person had a life outside of the four walls I usually saw him in. Mom said hello and discovered he worked at the car wash. It turns out that driving the Book Bus is not a very lucrative career path, and he moonlighted at the car wash to make ends meet.

Everyone has a story. Every time I followed the characters in my books I was learning to see the world through someone else’s eyes. And sometimes it took seeing the Book Bus librarian at the car wash to make me realize the people around me have stories too.

My library card allowed me to travel and meet so many new places and people. It gave me a taste of freedom and independence. My mom didn’t bug me about what I was learning, and if I didn’t end up reading something it was no sweat off her back. She just took me to the library, and reminded me when the book bus was in town.

My kids all got library cards last week.

I wonder where they will take them.

2 Responses to “A Passport of a Different Sort”

  1. The book bus!!! I was JUST reminiscing about this the other day, though I have zero recollections of the driver, I was much to absorbed in the books to notice anything else.

    Blog more.


  2. kim:

    Maybe we had different drivers – I feel like this guy was very memorable!

    I hope to blog more. Which is different than a plan. I should make a plan!

    Thanks for commenting, Chantel!

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