Some of you may know that I’m working on an amazing project about libraries (and that I can’t seem to shut up about it). For me, it’s really a dream and a chance to give back to an institution that I directly credit for my career in publishing. It got me thinking about all the different roles I’ve seen my local libraries play.
The public library first opened my eyes to reading for fun. It introduced me to entire genres and worlds I didn’t know existed. The school library helped me realize that things like history and science (OMG! Pyramids! Bugs!) weren’t just dry topics that I’ll eventually have to be tested on. They could be fun. And when I lived in a sprawling city that didn’t have a branch anywhere nearby, I used to sit by the window every Wednesday, waiting for the Bookmobile to bring it all to me so I could walk away with quite literally all the books I could carry. I still think that’s pretty darn amazing. And I still have my card.
As I grew up, though, I started noticing that these places weren’t just buildings full of books. They were reference centers, access to information, and gathering places for families and communities. My catering job during college often had me working wedding receptions there. Go upstairs and peer at a First Folio behind glass; go downstairs and shake your ass to In Da Club (never really understood playing that at a wedding). It was as enlightening as it was bizarre.
A few years ago, I decided to look into things further. For a couple months, I frequented my local library. Like 3+ times per week. I’d mostly hole up in different areas on different floors with my laptop and get some work done while observing my surroundings. I saw everyone from eager children with their sleep-deprived parents to homeless people filling out job applications online to college students who couldn’t afford to pay for textbooks. I also noticed the event calendars and the rooms set up for author readings, exhibits, and workshops on everything from memoir writing to using the internet.
Another thing happened, too. Through a grant, the library was able to purchase an Espresso Book Machine. For a library, the use for it seems obvious, but I had to ask anyway about what they intended to do with it. They ended up being the most excited about giving professors the chance to do short print runs of material they’ve written for their classes and for local poets to self-publish their work. It’s now being used by a local nonprofit to promote youth literacy by assembling anthologies of young writers.
And that’s only scratching the surface, really. I could go on and on (you’ll just have to read the book) about what libraries and librarians do for us and why we should not only thank them with our words but also with our actions, our donations, and our votes.
What is your local library to you? Let us know in the comments below.