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12 Authors on the Libraries They Love

12 Authors Write About the Libraries They Love

For most readers and writers — and book lovers in general — the library holds a special place of honor and respect. We asked several authors to tell us about their local public library or to share a memory of a library from their past.

My Temple

The first library I knew was an upstairs room over a storefront in my little Kentucky town, with a librarian who didn’t approve of children handling books. (I begged; she relented.) The second was a van kitted out with bookshelves and sent out on the rounds of our rural county, a godsend to children and many adults who had no easy way of getting to town. The Bookmobile was the whole world parked on my gravel road. It came once a month, and we were allowed only three books at a time, but the Bookmobile lady had a heart. She let me check out as many as I could carry.

Everywhere I’ve gone since, I’ve found libraries. Those of us launched from bare-bones schools in uncelebrated places will always find particular grace in a library, where the temple doors are thrown wide to all believers, regardless of pedigree. Nowadays I have the normal professional reliance on internet research, but my heart still belongs to the church of the original source. Every book I’ve written has some magic in it I found in physical stacks or archives.

Or the facade, in the case of my first novel. The library I frequented in Tucson was draped in wisteria with long, dangling pods: the bean trees. For my latest, it was a cache of letters Charles Darwin wrote to a lady scientist in Vineland, N.J. Once it was a very old Kikongo-English dictionary I found in the University of Arizona library’s special collections. It wasn’t supposed to leave the room, but I am persuasive. I said, “Something good could happen if you let me borrow this book.” I took it home; a novel called “The Poisonwood Bible” happened.

This is my thank-you note to every librarian who’s ever helped a kid like me, nobody from nowhere, find her doorway through a library shelf into citizenship of the world. If one of them ever begs you to bend the rules, I’m going to say: Let her do it.

Barbara Kingsolver, “Unsheltered”

Read all twelve stories at The New York Times.

The above article is inspired by Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which we are proud to feature in our Books in the Bag section.

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