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The Evolution of Libraries

April 15, 2015

Doylestown LibraryOne of the things I love about being a writer is having my books in libraries. Sometimes I visit them on my way through the stacks. How vain is that? I write mysteries and my last name begins with a C, so I’m on a shelf with Agatha Christie – something that never fails to send a tingle up my spine.

I can never resist reaching out to touch the spines of my books. If a book isn’t on the shelf–even better. Someone is reading my story! I feel an instant connection with that reader, though I’ll probably never know who it is. I send hopeful thoughts into the universe that they enjoy the book. Will my characters be as real to him (or her) as they are to me? What other books does this person read? I could go on (and on), but I’ll spare you.

I admit what I’ve just described is an ego trip, but my love affair with libraries is much more than that and began long before my books wre rubbing shoulders (spines?) with Ms. Christie. Some of my earliest and best memories are of wandering through what seemed to my young self like miles of books in a hushed, almost reverent, atmosphere. At least it was hushed when I was a girl. Libraries are livelier than they used to be–a good thing, I think.

The library in the small town where I live now has a section with puppets for the children to check out along with their books. No hushed reverence in that corner. Lots of giggles though. Sometimes the Library Statuelibrary experience leaves the building altogether. There’s an outdoor story program where a librarian travels to a nearby park with stories, songs, jokes and puppets. Participants are invited to bring a lunch and have a picnic. Another program I love is “Kids Reading to Dogs”. It’s not unusual to see a small person sprawled on the floor reading to a large and attentive Golden Retriever. Yes, the child is reading to a dog. The idea is that all kids really want to read; they all want to do well in school, but some of them need a little extra help–and a lot of practice. Reading to another person intimidates them, but they feel comfortable with a dog. There’s no need to measure up, no fear of judgment. To me, these programs are perfect examples of how libraries have changed as community needs and life styles have changed.

I was talking with one of our librarians recently about the changes she’s seen in her career. One thing is that the number of audio books being checked out is growing dramatically. Another is that half the space in the reference section is devoted to computers. There are almost as many requests for help navigating the Internet as there are for reference books. Does this signal the slow death of print books? I don’t think so. I believe the need to learn about different things and to become part of an imaginary world is a basic element of human nature and having information and stories available in different formats reinforces that need.

GIRL READINGMy friend said one thing that hasn’t changed is children’s story hour (her favorite part of her job). The kids still sit on the floor in front of the reader, wide-eyed, spellbound by the power of story–on their way to a lifelong love of books.

How about you? Do you have special memories of libraries? How do you feel about the changes that recent years have brought? Some people find them a little frightening. I’d love to hear how some of you feel about this.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Grace Topping permalink
    May 7, 2015 2:43 PM

    Hi, Sandy —

    What a wonderful thing to have your books shelved with those of Agatha Christie. I couldn’t resist visiting that shelf myself. If I am lucky enough to have my books in the library someday, it would be shelved near Charles Todd!

    I love libraries. When we went to Bar Harbor, I was delighted to discover the local library, which is in a wonderful old building with a balcony that surrounds a central hall, was having a book sale. Just a few hours in Bar Harbor, and I spent them in the library. If I were to lose my wallet, I would be more concerned about the loss of my library card than my credit card.

    • May 7, 2015 3:07 PM

      Thanks so much, Grace. I’m sure your books will be shelved one day – and equally sure Charles Todd will be be proud to share the space with you.

  2. Grace Topping permalink
    May 7, 2015 3:16 PM

    Sandy, you’ll have to post a picture of your books on the shelf with Agatha Christie’s books. That would be a terrific photo op.

    • May 8, 2015 9:24 AM

      Great idea, Grace. I’ve never done that, but I did go to the bookstore and take a picture of my books flanked by Michael Connelly and Mary Higgins Clark.

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