I work at a publisher and I love libraries.
There, I've said it. Seems like an oxymoron for a woman who makes a living marketing books to the masses. But it's true.
Tonight I had to drop off a few books at that library that were in danger of being overdue. As I walked out--with two new books in tow that I happened to see on the express shelf--I let out a happy sigh. Oh, how I love the library.
As a girl, there was no place I'd rather be in the summer than the library. My parents didn't have much money, so obtaining books for an obsessive reader came either by donations from friends cleaning out shelves or by borrowing them. I don't exactly remember the first time I was allowed to ride to the library on my bike, but I do know that for years after I took liberty with that freedom. First on my banana seat bike and then on a larger one with a basket, that trip was my own little piece of heaven. The library had blessed air conditioning and since my house had none, I could get away from the stifling mugginess of Indiana summers with a 15 minute ride.
I lived in a subdivision that had sprung up in the early seventies with road after road of identical ranch houses. The long roads were connected by shorter ones that made a back and forth path for me to get to my destination. I liked to ride and spy on my neighborhood, wondering what certain houses looked like on the inside. I was never afraid nor did my parents worry for my safety. I would be okay. Nothing bad happened in the seventies to kids except perhaps poison in Halloween candy, but we checked those before eating. My rides were uneventful, yet big events.
I hated all the rules of my parents and church; the library was a place for me to be myself and be on my own. I discovered many writers during those visits: Catherine Marshall, Nancy Drew, Louisa May Alcott, Anna Sewell, Grace Livingston Hill, Marguerite Henry...such a variety! It was escapism at its best. Horse books and mysteries, romance and humor--I read it all. There was one summer in which I determined to read all the books in my section of the library. Don't know that I actually did it, but I started at A and kept going until school started.
Once I had grown up and had a baby, I determined that my boy Zach would experience libraries as I had as a child. When my husband would travel, Zach and I would go over to the itty bitty library by our house and pick out books. It became our own little tradition--a date night that was our sacred routine when we were on our own.
The library where I now live is not a big place, but it has character. There is an arch over the doorway with neat little windows. That archway desperately need sweeping since the cobwebs make it look haunted, but I guess it adds character. There are a few little side nooks throughout the building where a comfy chair has been placed to read. One such place is Zach's favorite. It looks as if it was a closet at one point, but now it is a sweet spot just big enough for a chair, table and lamp. A very tall, thin window is centered on the wall that looks out into the yard where a tree shades it in summer. A few years ago while waiting for swimming lessons to start, Zach and I would often stop at the library to wait and kill time. He still claims that corner he discovered as his own special place to read. An obsessive reader himself, Zach once told me that he didn't like going to the library. He only wanted new books. Why? I asked. Because the new books haven't been read by anyone else. He's a book snob at heart. Publishers of America love him.
To me, the fact that hundreds or thousands of people have read or will read the books that I handle, remains one of life's greatest mysteries to me. Where has that book been? The beach? Someone's backyard? To Europe in a carry on bag? Did that person love this novelist as much as me? As an adult, I now choose to escape with writers such as Anita Shreve, Adriana Trigiani, Maeve Binchy, Anne Rivers Siddons, Cecilia Ahern, or Elizabeth Berg. Often times a cookbook or craft book makes its way into my bag along with a few magazines for good measure. These books are loved on and don't have crisp papers or sharp jackets anymore. All have ugly plastic covers that crinkle when you crack open the spine. But with each and every stack that makes its way to my home, I feel the same thrill.
Potential. Adventure. Escape. Dreams.