For the Love of Libraries

Earlier today I found myself in a very unusual and distressing situation…38,000 feet in the air with nothing to read.  That’s right, I finished my book in the middle of a flight to Florida, and had nothing else with me to read.  Thankfully, my i-pod saved me from complete ruin, as I was able to watch some stored episodes of Sex and the City, and then play a few rounds of  Wordle.

As we were walking off the plane, I clutched my husband’s arm.  “I have to get a book,” I gasped in desperation.

“Absolutely,” he readily agreed, knowing that his life would be fit for nothing if the ravenous reader was left to starve. “Shall we go to the bookstore?”

I sighed.  My new economic reality simply does not include buying books.  Frightfully sad, but true.  “I think the library,” I replied.

Just down the road from our home here in Naples is a beautiful new library, built in Spanish mission style  so popular in Southwest Florida.  It opened in 2005, back in the heyday when money around here was flowing faster than the tides off the Gulf of Mexico.  I searched out my library card and we headed over directly after lunch.

I’m a regular customer of my library at home, which is one of the best libraries in the metropolitan Detroit area.  I’ve always been proud of our library, and even more so since the opening of a new, two story building just a few blocks away from my house.  Our township is gritty and blue-collarish, but our library is full to bursting with fiction, new and old, the latest in audio books, and dozens of computer stations.  We even have a in-house cafe with wireless access.   Quite spiffy for a community that sits on the very border of Detroit, one of the hardest hit economic areas in the country.  Usually within 10 minutes of walking into my library at home, my book bag is filled to the brim…and that’s before I’ve left the New Fiction area. 

Obviously, I’m spoiled.  So I was not prepared for the dearth of good fiction available here in Naples.  Oh, there were plenty of romance series, and cozy mysteries, and all the best sellers from Grisham to Patterson to Steele. 

But there was no Laurie King.  And I was looking for Laurie King.

There was no Madeleine L’Engle, and I had a hankering for Madeleine L’Engle. 

There were none of the great new authors whose books have been showing up all over on your blogs.

After much searching around, I did come home with two books…April and Oliver, by Tess Callahan; and The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square, by Rosina Lippi.

But after today’s outing,  I was much more appreciative of my own library, I can assure you of that.

And then I read this story ~ that all the libraries in Philadelphia will be closing on October 1, because of budget cuts!

Close the libraries?  Shouldn’t there be a law against that?  Aren’t libraries a fundamental American right?  (If they aren’t, then shouldn’t they be?)

For a moment, I felt a bit of panic.  Whatever will I do if they close my library?  I could never afford the cost of my reading habit.   Suddenly, I envisioned myself as a desperate book  junkie, reduced to selling my belongings (or my blood!)  to maintain my weekly supply.

I’ve since calmed down a bit.  (A few chapters of a good book will do that, at least for me.) 

But I’ve realized once again how much I love libraries in general, and my own in particular.

BTW, for those among you who love to write, the new prompts at Cafe Writing are all about Libraries.  Do check them out.  *wink*

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13 thoughts on “For the Love of Libraries

  1. I had a panic attack when I read about that too! I have a marvelous library as well, and I think 90% of what I’ve read this year is from the library.

    When I moved to a small town in CA for grad school for awhile, I was shocked at how sparse their library was.

  2. I love my library so much I happily pay the annual non-resident’s fee to remain a member. In my idealistic dreams, others would happily do the same, as well, rather than do without.

  3. As someone who lives in the Philadelphia area, I thank you for this post and mentioning the situation with our library system. (I did a post about it on my blog, too.) It is truly a sad day – one that is a disgrace. Fingers are being pointed in every direction as to who is to blame, but it doesn’t matter … it’s just terrible. No words.

  4. I hope somebody wakes up and does something positive before this plan goes into effect. I don’t know what I’d do without the local library. What’s truly sad is that the people who will be hurt the most by this action are the ones that need the library most: children.

  5. I do understand just how you feel. I once packed enough reading matter for a hospital appointment to allow for the appointment to be an hour late; it was two! As if I wasn’t already jittery enough as it was. Now I go everywhere with the ‘next’ book as well as the one I’m in the middle of. OK it’s heavy, but the weight is worth it.

  6. I agree there should be a law against it!! And it seems to me crazy that in a time of recession, cut backs should be directed against a public service that does so very much good, that has no downside at all. You do wonder whatever people are thinking. And very glad you found a couple of books to read. I’d go spare with nothing available!

  7. Thank goodness the libraries here in St. Pete are better. I lived in New Jersey (Jersey City and near Red Bank) and their libraries were terrible. i was thrilled when I first laid eyes on the main library here in St. Pete. Tons of books, fiction and nonfiction. Now, the ones that are popular on the blogs seem to be checked out all the time, but there is an online request system and the library usually has many copies making their way down the lists. Some of the branch libraries here aren’t that great–a fact that became all too clear to me this summer when they shut the main branch down for renovations. I can’t *wait* until it opens back up the end of next month! I’m like you are, I don’t know what I’d do without my library! *shudder*

  8. We are, I hope, I pray, holding onto our libraries here in Philly — but it’s been a devil of a fight, with consequences everywhere. I can just imagine you up high in the sky, needing that book. May libraries be forever open to us all.

  9. Great post and you bring up some really great points. I can’t imagine my life without a library either. I really do live and work out of the library on campus. It was built (well, really, it was rebuilt) a little over year ago and I can’t imagine my life without it. Granted, at this particular location, we don’t store many fiction books, but we do have methods of getting almost any fiction book you could ever want (Link+, ILL). Still, I grew up really appreciating public libraries. It’s part of the reason I love reading. It’s one of the things that makes reading more accessible to people. Like you said, a reading habit can get expensive real quick. I guess it’s only through appreciation like our that libraries will fight to find a way to stay open. As I’ve learned, if people don’t use the libraries, they are no longer a priority and hence become one of the first things to go when budget cuts are necessary. So sad.

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