I didn’t think I could explain why my eyes welled with tears upon hearing the news about Ellen Borders, but I can. I grew up in Haines back when library cards were carefully typewritten with names and numbers on actual card stock. I didn’t have to rattle off my number to Ellen when I checked out books though – she had it memorized as well as I did. Even now I can picture every shelf of books, hear the hushed voices and sounds of turning pages, breathe in that indescribable, luscious library smell. Even now I can picture Ellen’s warm and welcoming smile, her eyes twinkling behind her glasses. I can clearly recall her bubbly voice asking me about the books I liked, recommending books I might like. The day she whispered conspiratorially to me that she was going to let me check out more books than the usual kid’s limit of four allowed, I might as well have won the lottery.
Though it has been a great many number of years since I last checked a book out of the Haines public library, my mother told me that Ellen never failed to ask about me when they crossed paths in the usual Haines ways. I was touched, but not surprised. That sounds like Ellen.
Librarians are special people and none more special than Ellen Borders. I only hope she left this earth knowing how many people she touched in so many lasting ways.