The day I got my first library card was one of the best days of my life. I must have been about eight or nine years old. The library had just opened as the St. Paul Bicentennial Library. It was housed in the old St. Paul Hotel and I fell in love with it the moment I saw the shelves lined with books.
Up to that point I had acquired books through the Scholastic Book Club, from my grandmother’s bookcases, and at the elementary school library. The public library exposed me to a far greater number of writers than I had previously known. I moved from the children’s section to the adult section early, and I sampled all genres, although I was particularly fond of scary stories back then. I still am.
I adored everything about the library. The smell of the books. The quiet atmosphere. The long counter that accommodated all the mysterious tools used by the librarian, Mrs. Arlie Mae Hilton. I loved the sound the machine made when she inserted the cards to check out my books. Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk. Ka-chunk.
Usually I staggered out of the building with six or seven books. I couldn’t believe they let me take books out of the building! For free! And they trusted me to return them. It amazed me then and it amazes me today. Public libraries are a tangible example of an honor system that works.
Libraries help the people in a community stay connected. For individuals with limited incomes, they provide access to important resources. Obviously, they promote literacy.
But, let me tell you what the library means to me, personally. The library provides a means of escape. In the worst times of my life, I’ve been able to escape into a library book, a temporary reprieve from my problems.
Library books expose me to new worlds and interesting ideas.
Reading library books has improved my vocabulary and helped me be a better writer. Most writers, and certainly the best writers, are avid readers.
The library has moved a couple of times since I was a kid, and I don’t get to it as often as I did when I was young, but my love for it is still strong.
I was proud to have my very first book signing at the J. Fred Matthews Memorial Library a few years ago, and since then the Friends of the Library have continued to support me and encourage me in my career as an author.
The next time you see a librarian, or a friend of the library, thank them for all the services and programs they provide to our community. They’re an invaluable support system for readers and writers.