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.
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”
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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