When I was a little girl, I had an irrational fear of bats. I say irrational because I never had a bad experience with one — no bites, no close calls, no psychologically scarring incidents. Except for one. We lived in New Mexico at the time, and one summer my family and some friends rented cabins at a local lodge and wilderness retreat. To say that I loved our visit is an understatement. How could I not enjoy swimming in the pool, feeding the deer, going on jeep rides — I'm talking paradise, my friends! Right up until the bat encounter. We were walking back from the lodge to our cabins one evening, and a family friend spotted a small bat hanging out in the brush. To my horror, everyone wanted to stop and look at the bat. So crazy! Let's just say I didn't behave very well that night.
If only I had known what my older, wiser self now understands. Bats are not scary (just a little creepy-looking), and they do great things such as helping to control the mosquito population. And thanks to this week's picture book "Bats at the Library," I've learned something else. It might come as a surprise to many of you, but apparently bats get bored. Not all of the time, of course, but now and then, doing the same bat stuff night after night makes a bat a bit … batty. So, how does a bat break up the monotony? By visiting the library!
It isn't easy for a bat to get into the library, but if a helpful librarian happens to leave a window open, nighttime bat visits are sure to happen. The older bats know exactly which shelves to check out, and are happy to wrap up with their favorite titles. Youngsters need a little help learning what to do at the library, so the adults keep their pups on track by reminding them about their manners ("Please keep it down — you must behave! [The] library is not your cave!"), and taking them to storytime to "rest a play-exhausted wing." It's expected, though, that a little horseplay, or should I say, bat-play will occur. The drinking fountain makes for a perfect swimming pool, and frisky bat-kids soon discover that the photocopier is a funhouse of duplication merriment.
Alas, dawn's light always arrives too soon, signaling the end to the bats' special library time. But they'll be back the next time a window remains open, a sure sign that library staff are inviting their nocturnal comrades to share stories with little ones, cozy up with bat-friendly books, and spend some time just hanging out at the library.
One thing I know for sure. The next time I meet a bat, I'll know what to do — recommend a good book.
Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org