That may seem really odd for someone who’s spent the last 8 years reviewing books, but let me explain. When I worked for RT Book Reviews, I received advanced reader copies of books from various publishers. Those, plus the occasional purchase, plus my fairly extensive collection here, were more than enough to keep me going in terms of reading material—in fact, I was frequently behind. Since I left RT, however, I no longer get regular deliveries of books via UPS, and my budget isn’t going to stand me buying lots and lots of books. I am now scrounging for reading material for the first time in years. So—the library.
My town recently moved its library into an old church, and I’d never been there, so I was quite curious to see the inside. It’s certainly roomy—there will be no issues with expanding their collections for quite some time. They’re still working on renovating, but you can tell it’s going to be a very pleasant space when it’s finished—airy, nice high ceilings, and plenty of room. I wandered around a bit, explored the various nooks and crannies, picked up a few books, and approached the front desk, where I explained to the pleasant woman sitting there that I was in need of a library card.
That’s when I realized how very much I have missed going to the library. They were my favorite places to hang out growing up—all those books, all those chances for adventure and romance and mystery! As a child, the library was a never-ending source of books, a place to discover the world, respite from everything. In high school, I worked in the school library, hid there when I wasn’t working (I mean that literally—it was the safest place to hide from all the mean people. Mean people never, ever go to the library), and spent many an afternoon and evening at my suburb’s library as well. I have read my way through several libraries over the years, and I’ve discovered some of my very favorite authors in libraries. I found Lord Peter Wimsey in my town library right before graduating from high school. My first encounter with Peter Lovesey was through a library. Same with Charles Todd. I discovered Miss Read and R.F. Delderfield in a small town library about 20 years ago, and E.F. Benson’s Mapp amd Lucia books at my college library. I took my daughter to local story hours when she was little, volunteered for years at my town library to help them raise money to build a children’s wing, and relied on them when I couldn’t afford to buy even used books.
I’m a big supporter of public libraries. They offer so many opportunities for local folks. The story hours and summer reading programs for kids, for example, are a great way to get kids involved with books and for them to meet like-minded kids (and for grown-ups to meet like-minded grown-ups). My new library sponsors book groups for adults, too. Another one in a nearby town has an active writer’s group. They are often a great resource for local history buffs here, sporting well-stocked collections about town histories. And they should not be overlooked as a social gathering place—when I was new in this area of Maine, some of the first friendships I formed were with people I met at the small library in my small town.
Once I moved to this town, I fell out of the habit of going to the library. Walking in there last Saturday brought back not only a host of memories, but a feeling of real satisfaction. Getting a library card on Saturday just felt right. Like all was finally right with the world. I confess, I got a small thrill of pure pleasure when she handed me my brand-new, pristine library card. And since this is a very small town, she then proceeded to tell me that they’d probably never ask me for it, but I should keep it handy in case I wanted to borrow e-books, because I’d need my id number to get in the system. When I explained I didn’t have an e-reader, she pointed out that I could borrow one of those too.
When I left the building, I had two books under my arm and a warm fuzzy feeling. And a smile on my face. Just like when I was a little kid.