It was a piece of brown cardstock.
I can still remember being in the Kickapoo Prairie Branch, waiting at the front counter, that unmistakable summer library smell--air conditioning and pages and sunscreen on all the kids--filling my nose as the librarian typed my name on the top line.
With that brown piece of cardstock, I checked out stacks and stacks of picture books. I checked out my very first chapter book--one I had to put a bookmark in! I read about animals of the jungle. I solved mysteries. I had adventures. I vicariously went through the joys and pangs of romance for the first time.
I read--and read--and read. Stacks and armloads. Every summer. I participated in every summer reading program, dutifully adding stickers to my folder to keep track of every single completed book. I won prizes for most books read.
When the Kickapoo Prairie Branch was renovated, I used my brown cardstock to check books out from the bookmobile, that sweltering vehicle with such limited space--and somehow, books upon books I hadn't yet read.
I came back during the school year, plunking myself down in the non-fiction section to gather materials for research papers.
I went from a tiny thing in pigtails to a high schooler looking for materials on college scholarships.
I don't have that brown cardstock anymore. It was long ago replaced by a more modern library card.
I mean, it was just a piece of brown cardstock.
And yet, it was a ticket to so much more.
Holly Schindler is the author of books for readers of all ages. Her award-winning debut YA, A Blue So Dark, has recently been re-released and is available where books are sold.