Is there any better way to spend an evening than in the children’s department of the library? On a recent Monday evening my grandchildren, their doting grandfather and I headed to the main branch of the Oak Park Library to hang out.

We found the aquarium and spent some time naming the colors of the fish and pointing out the big, medium and small ones. Then we visited with Ramona Nibblesmith, the resident gerbil. My granddaughter worried that Ramona was going to get a tummy ache from nibbling a cardboard tube with her sharp little teeth. She watched the gerbil scramble through the cardboard tube and dive into the piles of chewed up paper in her cage for about ten minutes, an eternity when you’re just two. I was reminded of her daddy at that age.

After that we went to a table and played with some building toys. My grandson, age one, was mainly interested in climbing into and out of the just-right sized chairs. We checked out the early literacy games on the computers. They were more interested in the colorful keyboards than the games, but they enjoyed being able to push buttons, something that I don’t let them do on my keyboard at home.

The evening story hour started and we went into the story room to listen to the librarian. One mother told me that her daughter begs to attend every week. My little ones were too restless for us to stay long, so we found a room with dress ups and puppets. In fact, we were so busy that before we knew it, it was time to go home. We never even had time to pick out books, which caused much wailing on our way out.

I recently saw an idea floated in the media that public libraries should be closed and the money diverted to public schools. How could we possibly choose one over the other? Both provide pathways to knowledge but the library provides it for everyone from babies to senior citizens. Oak Park is fortunate to have a jewel of a public library. Check out the classes, discussion groups, author appearances, story times, art exhibits and an amazing array of other activities at  Or just hang out and enjoy.

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Helen Kossler

Helen Kossler loves reading aloud to her grandchildren and is not ashamed to admit that she almost always likes the book better than the movie. She has been buying, borrowing, begging and stealing (well—not...

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