From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian

The year was December 1962 (or maybe ’63). Any trip to the library was exciting but this one was special because we went in an evening. My mother drove Elaine and me down Broadway so we could ooh and aah at the silvery garlands strung across the downtown area, lit up in all their holiday glory. It was only natural that she broke into song: “City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style…” and, of course, we joined in at the chorus, belting out “Silver bells, silver bells…”. It was a classic Norman Rockwell scene inside our car.

Once we got to the library, which seemed rather dark after all the bright Christmas lights that illuminated our route, the three of us went our separate ways to choose our books. I headed to the northwest corner of the Children’s section located on the main level, which was just outside the staff lounge.

As I knelt down to peruse the shelves I began to sing—in an oh so quiet, respectful voice—“Silver bells, silver bells…” when a shadowy figure swooped down over me. Part Scrooge, part Grinch, and all old-school librarian, she proceeded to tell me that singing WAS NOT allowed in her hallowed library.

I cowered before her, afraid to open my mouth to even utter “I’m sorry,” and after she left, my sister quickly came to my side. Not to console me, but to laugh at my humiliation. I’m surprised I ever returned to the library, though it was many years before I could hear “Silver Bells” without flushing with residual shame.

Fast forward thirty years and I worked at a desk in that same room, then dedicated to Reference after the Children’s collection had moved to the third floor. Then-director Dottie Thomas had arranged a Christmas program featuring Lem Sheppard, but she couldn’t be there so I was the designated staff person.

At the end of his musical presentation, I had an epiphany: I could erase my mortifying experience and get revenge on that horrible woman. Which I did with relish as I asked all in attendance to please join me in a rousing version of “Silver Bells.” It took three decades but oh my, did I ever enjoy hearing the strains of the song that had haunted me for so many years ring out throughout that room. I imagined that woman spinning in her grave.

For most of the years since that night I’ve arranged to have carols, including “Silver Bells,” sung in the library each holiday season. Spite probably isn’t the most Christmas-appropriate feeling— but it’s been very cleansing for my four-year-old soul. And I’m proud to say that never in my time here at the library have I chastised anyone for singing. In fact, if you come up to the Reference Desk and start crooning “City sidewalks…” I will most likely join in.