People who like libraries are my favorite people. For the shy and lonely, books are such good friends. I grew up in a suburb of Boston, and when I was 10 years old, my mother let me take the bus down Parker Street to Newton Corner, where there was a wonderful library in a park. I worked my way alphabetically through the children’s fiction. I’d leave the library balancing a stack of books as tall as I was old.
Authors, of course, our biased toward libraries. Not only because it’s where we hope you will discover our work but where we find the stories that inspire us. Reading is essential to being a writer, to build vocabulary, to research, and to study plot, voice, and suspense. But we also just love to read!
When I asked friends what they love about libraries, almost everyone wrote, with just a little wonder, that the books are free. A writer friend says: “You don't need a dime to enjoy the library. All you need is some time and a desire to make your world a little bigger.” And a cousin said, “A public library is one of the few places in some parts of the country where you can go, knowing you will be sharing space with other souls who love books.”
That’s what libraries deliver that a download can’t: community. Yes, we could have print and digital books delivered directly to us but we’d miss the chance of seeing each other. Here, you might end up chatting over there in the 900s with someone about your next trip to Vancouver or Amsterdam or you might find yourself recommending the latest Sherman Alexie or Sharon Creech as you browse the new books section.
On other days, we come to the library not for conversation but to be alone in community. We’ve got our headphones on, our laptops open or magazines unfurled in our hands. There is something lovely about sitting with other people who are focused and filled with the intention of being quiet. It’s nearly as close as we get to silence in this world today.
That’s the thing about a third place that’s not home or work—serendipity. We don’t know what we’ll read when we wander in to the library, and we have librarians to thank for curating what’s here, selecting the titles that deserve a wider audience.
The more we open ourselves up to new ideas—even ones we disagree with—the more we are likely to fuel the creation of our best selves. The stories in books connect us, filling our reservoirs of compassion, chipping away at our isolation. What is important is libraries exist where we can—for free—borrow books.
Here's what I've been thinking and writing about. I love getting email, too!