Monday, November 28, 2011

For The Love of Libraries

Reading is in my blood. Both my parents are huge readers. In a week they go through a book a day. I can't remember a single week in my whole life where they haven't had a book in their hands. Every night before I went to bed as a child one or the other read at least two stories to me. (Did I mention that my parents are awesome? Well, they are.) I got this "reading" gene big time. The story goes that when I was four Mom was reading to me, and she noticed I was mouthing the words before she said them. She handed me the book and I started reading to her. I haven't stopped since. On rare days where I have nothing to do I have been known to read three books in that one day. They're usually James Patterson's, but I still count them. So libraries were a big part of my childhood and still are today. I Heart Libraries.

The first time I realized this I was eight. We were living in Sterling, Virginia at the time and they just built this new library. I was going through my classic movie monsters phase, as we all do, and they had all these kid books on them! Here was this magical building that gave me what I wanted. For free! I could get as many as I could carry. I loved this place so much I even volunteered for special programs like animal shows and reading to little kids, well littler than me. (I was eight so I mostly handed out programs to people walking in, but still.) It only lasted a short time because, you know, elementary school got in the way. But Mom would still take me at least once a week to get my fix.

As the years progressed, and we moved around even more, (I'm at an even dozen now), I had to find some sort of lifeline. Something that could stay consistent in a crazy world. Libraries provided that. The location might change but their services and the books stayed the same. When I went to college the third thing I did after moving into my dorm and finding the dining hall was to hot-tail it to the library, sit down at a table, and read. The strum and drang inside my head faded away surrounded by all those books. It was as close to home as I could get.

I wrote my books in libraries too. If you're so inclined to stalk me, check out the acknowledgments section of Mind Over Monsters. Those are my usual haunts. I'd just sit down at a table or study carol, put on my headphones, and write. It gives me a place to focus on the task at hand. (And on occasion shoot flirty looks at cute boys.) Libraries are a safe place to do research, be quiet, and find my next mental adventure. So imagine my glee when I came in to work on my next novel and finding my own book on the shelves. Even better when an hour later I went to see it and the book was gone and one of the librarians I know winked at me as I passed. So yes, I love libraries and the people who work in them. Always have, always will. They make what I do possible (and give me a free fix of my drug of choice). So support your local library. Volunteer. Donate books. If you see programs getting cut due to budget problems, speak out. You know you love them too.

Viva la biblioteca revolucion!

What about all of you? Share your library stories or just show your support in the comments section.

-Jennifer Harlow


Vicki Doudera said...

Jen, I love this post!

One of my favorite childhood memories is of my Dad and I going to the "big" library in an adjacent town every Thursday night. We'd return our books and go our separate ways for two hours, then reconnect at the check-out desk. I loved the freedom of wandering the stacks and picking books at random. I could practically feel my mind expanding with all of the new ideas and thoughts!

I tell that story every time I give a library talk and there are so many murmurs of agreement. Your story will resonate as well. Thanks for making me think about those long-ago Thursday nights!

Lois Winston said...

My library stories are a bit different. The earliest has to do with my first grade teacher telling my mother not to let me take books out of the library because I was getting too far ahead of the other students in reading.

Then, when I was 9 or 10, a town librarian told me I could only take out books from the children's section and wasn't allowed to borrow books from the adult section because I was too young. So I started sneaking books like Gone With the Wind from my parents' bookcase.

Darrell James said...

I grew up in a small town where there was no library. So, I didn't really discover public libraries until I was an adult. My mother did subscribe me to a book-a-month club, however. It's all good.

Beth Groundwater said...

Gotta watch out for those winking librarians! Seriously, though, I count many librarians among my friends, and I can say they are a very cool bunch.

Cricket McRae said...

Here's a story for you! Last week I went to my favorite library in town (Ft. Collins, CO) to write and noticed a book on the Here & Now table called Mind Over Monsters by Jennifer Harlow. ;D

Here & Now books can only be checked out for a week because they're in such DEMAND. Nice, Jen!

Shannon Baker said...

Your blog brought back fond memories of every Tuesday night stopping at the A&W and eating my baby burger in the back seat and then going to library. What a thrilling weekly ritual for a first grader. Loved Cricket's comment! Go Monsters!

Kathleen Ernst said...

I was raised to love libraries too. They are safe places for anyone needing such a haven. Back when I couldn't afford gas, I'd walk a couple of miles to get there. Still visit my local at least once a week!

Deborah Sharp said...

Love that cute detail about the librarian giving you a wink as someone had checked out YOUR book. I still remember the thrill I got when I found a copy of my first book on the shelf at my hometown library in Ft. Lauderdale, and I'm still riding my bike there, just like I did as a kid.

Linda Hull said...

The library in my neck of suburban St. Louis became, for a time, the place to see and be seen around mid-junior high. Books and boys. No better combo as far as I was concerned!

Jennifer Harlow said...

Isn't it interesting that we all have library stories, and they're all so wonderful? Think it might have something to do with why we're writers??? I just hope libraries aren't going the way of the bookstore. Becoming nothing more than a website. A terrible thought.