Thursday, November 8, 2012

My love affair with libraries

Clapp Library, Belchertown, MA
I've been reminded lately of my love affair with libraries. I used my library in Bristol, England frequently--I was part of a book group there, and dramatically expanded my British author repertoire. But being back in the US, with an American library card, has been such a treat: all those American books I've missed for the past several years!

But I've always loved libraries. They're safe and comfortable, yet packed with stories and dreams, too. When I was kid, my dad used to bring me to the library almost every Saturday. I remember checking out stacks of books for each week,  always the exact number allowed per person. Maybe that's why I relate to Roald Dahl's Matilda, who discovered life and love and happiness all within her local library. My biggest problem as an adult is lessened reading time, while still fighting the urge to bring home as many books as possible.

Of course, being an adult, I can afford to buy books now. And I do. But I find libraries are a great testing ground for books by new authors, or in unique formats (graphic novels or verse, for example), or even those I can't imagine I'd like, but which everyone's buzzing about. I discovered Holly Black's Curse Workers series at a library, Michelle Cooper's FitzOsborne books, Gail Tsukiyama's The Samurai's Garden (all of which I now own copies of!).

Actually, I discovered The Samurai's Garden (one of my favorite books, which not many people seem to have heard of!) through a Chicago Public Library book group. And that's another thing I love about libraries--some of the most intelligent book discussions I've ever encountered, frequent visiting authors, knowledgable librarians, and all those possibilities to challenge myself, and maybe even discover a new favorite book.

That's why I got annoyed at a recent save the libraries campaign in the UK (the government was even threatening to close the Great Missenden Library, Matilda's local library in Roald Dahl's novel--but thankfully it was saved!). Amongst other planned activities and protests, people were encouraged on a specific day to check tons of books out of their local library. It was a tangible demonstration, and we definitely should be vocal with our politicians about the need for libraries, but to me it felt an empty gesture. In my mind, the best way to support libraries is to use them regularly and to encourage others to do the same.

But then again, it's easy for me. I'm already a fan. Are you a library lover?

*Oh yeah, and that gorgeous picture (taken by my mother-in-law) is of my new local library, the Clapp Library in Belchertown, Mass. Lovely, huh?

4 comments:

  1. I literally grew up in the library. My mother would take me there about 4 days a week and we would stay until it closed.

    I love my local library in my city. It's great. They have lots of sofas and comfy chairs plus a nice fireplace. Heaven.

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    1. I love that you literally grew up in a library, Karen. Makes so much sense!

      Ohh, a fireplace in a library DOES sound perfect!

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  2. Oh what a gorgeous library. And Karen - a fireplace! Alas our library in the nearby city is rather utilitarian in style, and doesn't off much in the way of the English books that I read, so I seldom visit.

    I have so many fond memories of childhood libraries. My mom used to take me every Saturday (and then to the used book store, and then sometimes to garage sales looking for books - is it any wonder I love books?!)

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    1. Yeah, book love can definitely be an inherited trait! Just shelving a bunch of old books I inherited from my grandfather!

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