I love libraries. I always have. Libraries contain more books than I could ever hope to own or have room to house, and they fill me with joy and peace. I often lose myself surrounded by the luxury of enormous numbers of books.
Looking at the covers makes me smile, the artwork and photos and colors draw me in, induce me to choose my next story. I love touching the books, lining them up evenly on the shelves, admiring the symmetry, and running my fingers along the rows, stopping on the one I find the most compelling, as a Wheel of Fortune stops on the $10,000 prize. I can’t wait to open the books, looking forward to experiencing new worlds, meeting new people, understanding new insights.
Walking through the stacks, sometimes I stop, close my eyes, take deep breaths, and inhale the beauty of the books – the struggle of Toni Morrison, the excess and flamboyance of Fitzgerald, the testosterone of Hemingway, the historical detail and strength of Louise Erdrich, the blood and psychology of Jonathan Kellerman.
Leaving fiction, I wander through Human Rights, Political Science, Cooking, Business, Law, Social Services, Education, True Crime, and Language. Running my hands over random book spines, I feel the heat of the lava from Mt. Vesuvius, the brilliance of Hidden Figures, the reflection of A Room of One’s Own. I sense the joy and desperation and passion and everything that’s out there just waiting for me to learn.
I’ve found some of my favorite authors in the New Fiction Section. I never know what surprises, what treasures might be waiting for me there. A book with a striped cover that I find compelling for some reason. I take it home and read it in two days, wondering why I never heard of this amazing author before. I go back and check out three more books that she’s written.
The library is always there for me when I need something, whether it’s a new release by one of my favorite authors or a classic novel that my book club is reading. I love the whole process — the convenience of going online, signing into my library account, and reserving a title gives me a tiny buzz. Next, seeing the email pop up in my inbox, telling me the book is now available for me to pick it up, gives me a little shiver of anticipation. The reading part is great – that goes without saying. Then I bring the book back, not just on time, but a few days early, happy to pass it to the next lucky person.
Returning books within the required time frame comforts me; I’m keeping up with what I need to do and not missing a deadline. I smile as I drop that book in the slot, knowing that I have done my small part to ensure that the world is running smoothly. (I know it’s wishful thinking, but these days, anything that helps, even a little bit, adds value.)
As much as I love the books, libraries offer much more. Sometimes I sit in a chair in the corner, put my book down, and look around. I see the young parents introducing their toddlers to the joy of reading and the magic of books. I walk upstairs to find my nonfiction selection and note the elderly woman at the reference desk, learning tools to research her family tree. In the merciless humidity of a Wisconsin July, I join the homeless man reading a magazine and enjoy the cool of the central air conditioning. We both smile at the teenager sitting by herself in a corner, writing furiously in a notebook. When I’m leaving, the middle-aged man ahead of me in line checking out fourteen DVDs causes me to speculate how he could possibly have that much free time.
Libraries are a place for connection, caring, and co-existence. We are all part of a community of readers and writers, people looking for help, and people just looking for a little quiet. I’m grateful to belong.