I was in one of my moods a little bit earlier. I felt like I needed to be in a familiar space, where I could enjoy some undisturbed peace and quiet. So I drove all the way up to Birmingham to the only place in the city where I always felt welcomed and at ease. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Linn-Henley Research Library.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the Linn-Henley Research Library in September 1998. At the time, I was an 8th grader at Wilkerson Middle. Every day after school, I would walk down the Center Street hill and catch the 8-Sixth Avenue South from Smithfield Library to the corner of 5th Avenue North and 20th Street in Downtown Birmingham. It all started with me hanging out on the 3rd floor in the Business, Science & Technology Department of the Central Branch Library. I usually did my homework there and surfed the Internet. One of my classmates from Wilkerson—a future makeup and fashionista extraordinaire named Samantha Denson—was the one who introduced me to the Linn-Henley Research Library. She was meeting her mom there and I walked across the skybridge with her and we ended up on the 2nd floor of the Linn-Henley. I had seen the library many times but it was my first time in it.
What it meant to me then? I was very intrigued. There was so much history in the building—and I’m not just talking about all of the research books and references. The murals drew my attention from first sight and I spent many early evenings after school doing homework and project research on the 1st floor. The 3rd floor computer lab was a hidden secret. Not a whole lot of people knew about the 16 computers up there and because of that, I usually spent a couple of hours up there without the threat of timing out. The following year, when I was a freshman in high school, I’d catch the 39-Homewood/Edgewood a couple of blocks from Parker High into Downtown Birmingham and walk up the Birmingham Green to Linn Park, where the library was located. I’d get there at 4:05pm every day and I stayed until the cute library intern came over to my table at 5:50pm to let me know the library was closing in 10 minutes. It was my happy place.
What it means to me now? For as long as I was a faithful rider of the MAX bus, I would be in the Linn-Henley Research Library. I forged relationships with most of the staff in the building, especially the ladies that worked on the 1st floor…in particularly, the cute intern who worked at the main entrance. Everything changed in October 2000, when I scored the job at Domino’s Pizza. My days at the Linn-Henley were restricted to my off days. Eventually, my consistent presence at the Linn-Henley went by the wayside when I purchased The Deuce and got introduced to Mervyn Sterne Library on the UAB campus. Today was maybe my 5th time in the library since 2002. It still has the same mystique as it did some 14 years back. Almost all of the staff has turned over from my high school days…except for the cute intern. She works on the 3rd floor of the Central Library these days as one of the paid librarians. Even as a 31-year-old, I feel the same way about the space as I did when I was just a 13-year-old in the Fall of 1998. Being surrounded by all of those books and all of the history inside of those walls does something to me. It’s my favorite library in the country.