It’s why I don’t make fun of most hobbies, as long as they’re not damaging property or people. As the old saying goes, give a man a fish and he eats once; teach a man to fish and he’s out of your hair for hours. You want to paint your face and scream your lungs out at a football game? Go for it. You want to dress up as a wizard and play a board game? I don’t see how that’s any sillier than painting your face, and at least you’re indoors.
What I loved to do was go to the library. All those books! Rows and rows of shelves and shelves, each filled with dozens of new worlds to explore. No matter how I pictured my life in the future, I knew I’d someday have a library all my own—an entire room with nothing but books.
Well, I’m halfway there: I have enough books to stock a room, but unfortunately they’re spread out in stacks and boxes all over the house. Someday.
I guess that’s expected, of a writer. What I didn’t expect was getting so busy doing adult things that I stopped going to the library. On a related subject, nobody warned me that being a writer would eat into my reading. There are those days—days when I get still another rejection letter, or a list of edits, or a lonely book signing—when I think I could give up writing, in order to get more reading time.
Then I’d be back at the library, for sure.
When I was a teenager the Noble County Public Library’s main branch was on the courthouse square, just a few blocks from where I lived. The back part was a Carnegie Library, one of those buildings funded decades ago by a rich guy who saw a need and helped fill it. The front part was newer, but featured big picture windows where someone could sit and look out over the courthouse. That’s where the magazines and newspapers were, and I read a lot of those.
I had to, once I ran through every book.
A person can read at home, as I usually do these days. But there’s something about a library. The smell of books, the look of them, especially the old ones. The feeling that you’re with others who might also love books, or at least appreciate them. There were microfilms full of history, plus atlases, huge dictionaries, encyclopedias pre-internet. Oh, and records—those vinyl disk things, you remember.
When I moved out on my own, one of my few belongings was a record player the size of a console TV. (A console TV, it was … oh, never mind. It was huge.) I’d take home some classical music records (and a stack of books), and play them while writing stories on my old manual typewriter. (A manual typewriter? … get your grandmother to explain.)
I’d probably still be a reader if there were no libraries—my parents saw to that—but I’m not sure I would have ever become a writer.
It might seem a little strange that I’m having a book signing this Wednesday at that same library, in its new location. I mean, that’s where you go to get your books for free, right? And there I am, trying to sell some. But I figure, that’s where the book lovers go. Besides, I owe all libraries, especially this one, and maybe this is my chance to pay them back a little, with some publicity and even a few walk-ins who wouldn’t be there otherwise. Or, maybe the library is just helping me again.
But either way, I get to spend a few hours there. And with all our adult responsibilities these days, it’s nice to go somewhere we want to be.