Sunday, September 8, 2019

What Libraries Mean to Me by Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay: This post was supposed to go up on Tuesday, the release date of my tenth library lover’s mystery, WORD TO THE WISE, which is my forty-second book to date, but it didn’t. Why? Well, the short answer is I forgot. Yes, I forgot my book was coming out! It's mortifying, I know. The longer story is that I had a deadline the night before, I was half crazy with exhaustion, but then it just devolves into a bunch of whining and complaining so we’ll stick with the short answer.

"Riveting" --Publisher's Weekly
When I started writing the library lover’s series nine years ago, I had a wealth of experience to draw from. I had worked in libraries of all kinds since I was fourteen, my mother was a librarian, I have a degree in library science, and my husband and I even met in a library. Oh, also, my hooligans had their first brush with the law in a library – security caught them spitting off the fifth floor of the open floor plan library all the way down to the first floor water feature. It was quite the proud mom moment, let me tell you!

There has not been a time in my life where the library has not offered me sustenance of one kind, a quiet workspace, or another, story programs for my children, and lifted me up - free stuff! - on days that would have been dark and gloomy otherwise. Needless to say, I am a big advocate for libraries. 

Here are my top five reasons why I love libraries:

1.  The smell of the books. There is nothing so lovely as the smell of books, at least to me.
2.  My I.Q. jumps at least twenty points every time I walk into a library. I’m pretty sure I get smarter just by being in the building.
3.  Librarians are the coolest people I know. There’s a reason there have been roughly 150 librarians on Jeopardy!
4.  People watching. Second only to the airport, the library is my favorite place to people watch. 
5.  It has the potential to change your life. Want to start a business, learn a new language, travel, plant a garden, study poetry, find a scholarship? The library can help with all of that and that’s just the beginning. If you have a good library in your life, there is no stopping you!


How about you, Reds and Readers, how do you feel about libraries?


And if you're a library lover, don't miss this series! Set in a small coastal CT town, there is murder and mayhem aplenty, keeping Lindsey Norris, library director and amateur sleuth, using all of her librarian skills to crack cases and sometimes skulls. Just kidding, or am I?




67 comments:

  1. Libraries are the most welcoming places I know . . . kind of like comfort food for your soul.
    I know the exact location of the library in five towns around me and I could be completely happy just choosing to spend my day in any one of them. I’m a sucker for children’s story time and I’m anxiously waiting for the mailman to deliver my “Word to the Wise” book [because, unlike libraries, we have no bookshop anywhere close by] . . . .

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    1. Agreed, Joan! Thank goodness for libraries, especially when there is no bookshop nearby. The closest bookstore to me when I was a kid was thirty minutes away but the library was less than a mile.

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  2. I, too, love libraries. I spent time in them as a kid more than I do as an adult, but when I step into one of my local libraries, I feel like I am home.

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  3. I'm ashamed to say I haven't been in a library in years. Between the advent of the internet and the advent of my old age, I have every book in the world at my fingertips, mostly for a price. And excluding Shakespeare folios, but they aren't available to check out anyway.

    I remember when a branch library opened in the tiny town of my childhood, making it not loner necessary to drive to the county library in another tiny town. My mother took me in and introduced me to Miss Marie Ohlhausen, a maiden lady of a certain age, and told her I could read any book I wanted and not to limit me to the children's section. I was nine years old.

    The rest is history, literally!

    I went several times a week, brought home a book or two, read them immediately, and went back for more. I think I read all of Mazo de la Roche and Agatha Christie that was available. I still have memories of hiding under the covers with THE WHITEOAKS OF JALNA and a flashlight!

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    1. Hope you are all fluent in typo

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    2. I remember the day I stepped from children’s to adult books at the library. I was twelve and it was a very big deal!

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  4. Libraries and librarians rock. We have THE most helpful research librarian here in Amesbury who has helped me immeasurably with my historical research. I grew up tearing through the books in our local southern California library. Congratulations on the new book, Jenn!

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    1. Thank you , Edith! Everyone needs to have a good librarian in their life!

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  5. Libraries are my happy place. Truly. When I got my first paying job at the library I can remember being amazed that I was getting paid to 'go to the library'. I had volunteered since my middle-school days, but to work there. Of course, working there is a bit different and all is not perfect. Challenges abound, but still. I continue to volunteer at two different libraries in my area and I start and end my week 'working' at the library. And leading a mystery book group at one. I can't imagine my life without the library and thank my mother for taking me as a child to 'get some books'. Looking forward to reading this new book, Jenn!

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    1. Thank you, Kay! I loved working the children’s area as a librarian - it’s like being an ambassador to knowledge and information for kids, plus we had a bubble machine!

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  6. I love libraries, especially my very own Milton Public Library. It's a welcoming place and the librarians are as sharp as they come. I belong to the Friends of the Library and am hapy to donate my time. And I love your series, Jenn!

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    1. Thank you, Hallie. I really need to become a friend but since I like to go “hide” at my local library, I’ve avoided it for now.

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  7. Putting this series on fast-track, Jenn! Count me in as a library-lover--from my local library to university libraries--there's just something about walking into a room/building filled with books--the outside world gets left behind and the world opens up!

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    1. Exactly. I feel as if I can do/be anything at the library!

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  8. My favorite place in second grade was the school library, where my perceptive teacher sent me during reading lessons.i was already reading Nancy Drew, and she could see that I was bored stiff with Dick, Jane, and Spot.

    This was an older, Art Deco school, with what were probably Rookwood tiles everywhere, and a massive, dark and cozy library. Aside from church or a train station, I remember it as the largest room I'd been in, and it was filled with books. Heaven to spend hours there, in rare quiet time.

    After school the very beautiful Lane Public Library was catty-corner across the street. My grandmother was a devoted reader, mostly of novels with nurses, for some reason, and she would take stacks of them home every week. The limit was six, but she was a fast reader, and she didn't drive, so that limit did not apply to her. In her later life, when macular degeneration stole her vision, I wish we had known about audiobooks. She would have loved them.

    Speaking of which, at one point our book club had two blind members, and we chose our books based on whether they were available as audiobooks or Braille versions. Now, though, we still check the library to make sure there are enough copies available for everyone, including our two commuters who mostly listen to theirs, so we usually choose older titles. I have downloaded ebook versions from the library just in time to finish them for the book discussion, many times.

    Recently my husband has started borrowing audiobooks to listen to in the car, in lieu of raising his blood pressure with talk radio. He's much nicer now, thanks to the library!

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    1. Audio books are a godsend! My grandmother loved Zane Grey on audio and Louis Lamour when she lost her vision in her later years. They are pricey so it’s fabulous that the library offers them on cd and downloadable audio.

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    2. Audio books are a godsend for solo long-distance driving, too! The miles speed by.

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  9. When I was a kid, the local library had The Bookmobile which came around to various neighborhoods in the summer and we could go and get all sorts of books without actually having to wait for your parents to take you to the library itself. We were big patrons of that let me tell you.

    As I grew up, I really didn't use the library that much. And then as I got to be more of my cranky old man self, I was kind of turned off by what struck me as an outsized sense of entitlement by the people running the local library. It seemed to me that they wanted the town to fund them better than the police or fire department. And since I just bought whatever books I wanted, I had no reason to go to the library. I certainly don't want my already ridiculous property taxes to go up even more just so someone else could feel entitled to more of MY money.

    Now, things seem to have balanced out a bit so the budget stuff isn't quite as "US vs. THEM" these days. And since I've realized I can save money by getting books that I don't intend to keep in my collection from the library, I actually registered for my first library card in YEARS a few months back. And guess what? It's been FUN!

    I don't indulge in the more modern day stuff like the DVDS or CDs they offer now. Nor do I use the computers there. But in terms of books, it's been a new door opened (or perhaps more accurately...an old door reopened once again) for me.

    I've discovered a new series called The Baker Street Letters which has been great to read. I found that they had all three books in a series that I've been wanting to read but could never find the books. I've gone to their used book sales almost every month and come home with more books that I just HAVE to read (and will donate back when I'm done).

    The library director is relatively new to the position and he's been bringing back programs that had gone by the wayside in years past. And then there's the new Mystery Book Club that he started up.

    I remember a post about book clubs here on JRW and I pretty much pooh-poohed the idea as something to do for me, I believe. And yet, when I saw the announcement that they were starting this club up, I figured "what the hell?"

    Surprisingly, it's been a real good time too. The club is small right now but I'm hoping that it grows bigger. And we've read a bunch of good books. A couple that I've read before but then the ones that were new to me have mostly been good. Just one book so far that was BAD, which was the uniform reaction from everyone in the group on that night.

    And because I happened to know one of the authors we chose to read, The Amazing Ingrid Thoft, she actually offered to Skype into our meeting when we met to discuss "Loyalty". And I have another offer on the table for an in-person appearance from The Awesome Edith Maxwell, should we choose to read one of her books (I've been suggesting her books since the very first meeting because Robbie Jordan Rocks!)

    Oh and though it isn't my local library, I'm going to a signing for a mystery author today at a library a couple towns over from me this afternoon.

    So I guess I've come full circle on libraries. I loved them as a kid, had reservations as I grew up and have come back to embrace them again as I begin the inevitable decline towards looking forward to midweek bingo as a senior citizen.

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    1. Jay, I think most people have this exact same relationship with their library - together, apart, together - and so much of it depends on the director and their vision of the library and how tuned into their community they are. Personally, I’m thrilled that you’re back!

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    2. Jay, I "discovered" the Baker Street Letters this summer and tore through them. My library has all the books, thank heaven. I'm going to be in London in a couple of weeks and I would track down those Heath brothers instead of Sherlock Holmes!

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    3. Jenn, it's nice that the library is doing good things without becoming overbearing about it as it felt like in the past.

      Pat D, I went through the first three books like wildfire but put a pause on the last three books in the series as I got bogged down in reviews for Mystery Scene and advance copies of other books from their authors that I had to do Goodreads reviews for. I'm a little envious of you going to London, but I wouldn't look up the Heath brothers if I was going. LOL. I have one absolute must do on any potential trip to London and that is to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum. If I happen to run into the Heath brothers...well then so be it! :D

      I'll pick the series back up ASAP as I clear the decks of the review books.

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  10. The Cincinnati-Hamilton County library system rocks. I order new books and DVD's from the system, delivered free to my local branch. And books from the Ohio universities loan program. Jessica Strawser, this year's librarian in residence, holds office hours in a local branch one evening a month. She's giving her final talk on publishing with a panel of industry experts next Saturday.

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    1. Oh, that’s fantastic, Margaret! I was in charge of programming for three years and was amazed at how much talent/wisdom resided in my community when I started booking people to talk about everything from cooking to taxes.

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  11. I love libraries! Just walking into my local library evokes many childhood memories. I'm sure I read every book in the kids' section. Even our small-town library has kept up with current trends and offers everything from the usual printed books and magazines to DVDS, computer games, comic books, ebooks, etc. It inspires me to see that people of all ages still use the library. <3

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  12. Happy Book Birthday, Jenn! Did you meet your deadline? I hope you can now celebrate book 42! (The answer to life, the universe, and everything, right?)

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  13. Hooray Jen! You are such a whirlwind! I love this book… And I wish it much fabulous success. Of course I love libraries and my local library is a treasure. As for librarians, I am always in awe!

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    1. Thank you so much, Hank! Your enthusiasm always warms my heart.

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  14. Libraries are among my favorite places in the world, too! I love just about EVERYTHING about them.

    When I was a child, my mother didn't drive and my dad worked out of town through the week. Twice each week my mother and I would walk to the local library and check out the maximum allowed number of books. I read voraciously. I read EVERYTHING. In fact, there came a time (somewhere before we moved away from that town when I was 11) that the librarians told me I was allowed to move out of the children's area and start checking out books from the rest of the library because they realized I had truly read everything of any interest to me in the children's area.

    Everywhere I've lived since, I have known where the library was and made good use of it. To me, libraries feel safe and welcoming and at the same time, kind of sacred. I can never be bored in a library, and even if somewhat depressed, the library will give my spirits a big boost.

    I was laughing at myself the other day, really, as I realized that all an author has to do is put the word "library" or "bookstore" in the title and I will at least consider reading his or her work. There must be a lot of us who are like that, as I notice those words turn up a lot.

    And Jenn, I'm reading #7 in your series now, so I will soon be caught up to read the newest one! I particularly appreciate that your library series seems to capture the truth of what goes on in a library -- a mixture of sublime and ridiculous, highbrow and lowbrow -- like the human experience.

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    1. Thank you, Susan! I feel the same way about libraries. They really are a slice of life and all it’s layers.

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  15. Jenn, I loved libraries as a kid. When my daughter was small we practically lived at our local library. Even when we moved forty miles away, I still drove there to volunteer every week. In fact, I was volunteering there when I started my first book.

    And I have a reader's card for the British Library now--talk about library heaven!!

    Wishing you huge success with Word to the Wise, which I loved!

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    1. Thank you, Debs! Totally jealous about the British library card!

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    2. Deborah, do you have to pay a subscription to the British libraries? I was not sure if their libraries are free like the libraries in the USA.

      Diana

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    3. Diana, it is free but you have to fill out an application listing things you are researching.

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  16. Jenn, this is a great post! That dog is so adorable! I love the library. I remember going to the library with other kids after school (after school day care) and there was a children's area. Now that library is the YWCA and we have a brand new library that shares a building with the Community Center. The new library was built in 2002? And the new library has skylights. Both libraries are only one floor, which is great for people in wheelchairs. I often find books that I cannot find in any bookstore (chain or indie) at the library.

    We are having a library book sale this coming Saturday and I look forward to volunteering for the book sale.

    Just remembered a story about the library. One of my favorite authors was having a contest for the best display of his books at the library. I took a photo of the display of his books from the library and submitted it. For some reason, the contest people thought I worked at the library. They sent me a copy of the advanced copy to the library and the librarian told me that I had book mail. LOL. NO, the library did not win the contest, though it was fun to enter and get a copy of the book.

    And I go to the library about four times a week. Yes, the books are free!

    Diana

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    1. That’s a hoot, Diana! So glad you won the book if not the contest! My library has skylights, too, with stained glass inserts and I like to watch the colors move across the wall when I’m working.

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  17. Happy Book Birthday, Dear One! "Forty-second book to date." Forty. Second. YOU are amazing! Keep 'em coming, Jenn. SO proud of you. xxoo

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    1. Aw, thank you, Kaye! 42? I’m not even sure how I got here! LOL! Your support from the very beginning has meant the world to me. XO

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  18. Contrary to most of you, my family didn't frequent a library. It is in college that I began to appreciate them
    First of all, the college library was a respite from crowd and noise then, it was a good place for research, discoveries, studying and working on projects, overall a fabulous place.
    For the 40 last years, I have been a very regular member of my municipal library where I pick up a lot of books each week. I certainly couldn't afford to buy all the books that I read.
    While traveling, I always visit libraries. Just to be in one makes me feel good.
    42 books is a lot to go through and I didn't begin this series but intend to do so in a near future.

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    1. I always check out the local library when I travel. It's like knowing where the nearest hospital is to me.

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  19. I won't bore you with stories of all the libraries I've known and loved before. Needless to say I have always gotten a library card within a week or so of moving to a new town.

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  20. My first library memories are climbing a staircase. Mom would take us to the library about once a week. We could borrow one book each. Three kids, three books. What little Deana didn't know was that I was in a small temporary rented space while the new library was being built on the site of the old Carnegie. When the new library open, it was a huge deal but my memories was the static shock I would get every time I touched the shelves. I eventually learned to ground myself by always having at least one finger one a shelf at all times and I would touch the next set of shelves before leaving the first set.

    Mom loved libraries, was always borrowing books, she was a limited volunteer for the book sales for few years after John died. She volunteered to work in school library when we attended elementary school. I haven't been in the library for a while but it was a special place for Mom.

    And 42 books in how many years? When do you sleep?

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    1. Hi, Deanna,

      Oh, yes, the dreaded metal shelves and industrial carpeting. LOL.

      As for 42 books, I write about 4 books/year and have been at it for ten years.
      Busy bee.

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  21. Oh how I loved going to the public library and using the school libraries growing up. There was really no place quite like the library for feeling my comfort zone. My elementary librarian, Ms. Root, was the person who most inspired me to get my masters in library science years later, in my late 40s. And, I continued to love libraries into adulthood, still feeling the magic of my childhood wonder. I am disheartened to say that I'm not a fan of our local library though. A new library was built about fifteen years ago, and it was great, but the recent remodeling they did last year has made it less user friendly and pretty much relegated the mystery/crime section to an afterthought. Also, my best friend here died in January, and we would go to the library together, and it just isn't the same now. The last time I went was with her. However, this doesn't mean that I've lost my love for libraries. I enjoy the public library where my daughter lives, and I love taking my granddaughter there.

    Jenn, I think I've already mentioned that I'm eager to start your Library Lover's series, and I have the first two waiting on my short pile of TBRs. The covers for these books are wonderful, and the dog is so adorable.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy. I understand completely about your library - sometimes remodels make no sense. I love the dog, Heathcliff, too.

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  22. On Tuesday, I mentioned my introduction to libraries as a child. Those were part of a network called the Queensborough Public Libraries. As a teenager and into my twenties, I remember having a library card which was good for the New York Public Libraries which included the main branch with the lions in front, the Donnell branch on 53 rd street opposite the Museum of Modern Art and the Lincoln Center branch. This is all 40, 50 years ago. However, I remember well, hanging out in the Lincoln Center listening to music on LPs of mainly classical music and bound sheet music all of which you could borrow just like books.

    A confession. I know from my LibraryThing account that I still have a purloined copy of the book, An Actor Prepares, which I borrowed (and never returned) those many years ago.

    When I can afford it, my ‘go to’ place for people watching, is Starbucks. Nevertheless, when I need a free WiFi signal, I can count on the Bucks County Free Library in Doylestown. The library and the adjacent Michener Art Museum are set on land that used to be a county prison. One wall of the old prison still stands in the front of the two facilities. The library is one of 7 branches which share books and other resources. I just realized this afternoon that there are 11 other public libraries in Bucks County.

    Within the last decade, the BCFL has made a marvelous investment in computers free for public use and resources that are available online. Over the years, I have borrowed books, music and videos all online, without actually going to the brick and mortar library.

    James Michener is Doylestown’s favorite son and during his life his philanthropy has made a great difference for our town, both for the library and the museum that bears his name.

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    1. David, what an informationally rich post you've put up. The librarian in me is delighted! Also, I had no idea about Michener's philanthropy. How wonderful!

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  23. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10200441358140817&set=a.3113696085668&type=3&theater

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  24. I love libraries! My Mom took us to the library at least once a week. The library was next door to our school and I spent a lot of time there after school before catching the bus to go home. Lots of good memories of that library. I'm so glad my Mom loved to read and passed that love on to me.

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  25. I miss the Bookmobile! It stopped directly in front of our house when I was in grade school, and all summer I was in and out of it with my arms full every week.

    Has anyone used a Little Free Library? My sister-in-law put one up at their lake home in rural Nebraska, and it gets lots of use. I'd really like to put one up at the end of our driveway, because lots of neighbors walk on our road.

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    1. There's a LFL in my neighborhood. I stop by frequently!

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  26. Oh my sisters and I were library children. My mother had to go twice a week to change her books so of course we went also. Both of my older sisters worked at our local public library so of course I do too. I was hired on at 13 (probably illegal) but they knew me, so no one said anything. I worked for 2 hours after school two days a week and all day Saturday for my whole high school career and 5 days a week in the summer. First I was a "page" who put the returned books back on the shelves, then I advanced to a desk clerks. My mother and father thought it a great idea that we should work with and for the public and as they said, most of them coming in are at least literate. We had our homeless patrons even then coming in to get warm or cool or just to rest. With the money I earned, (starting at 75 cents per hour and ending up at $1.25 per hour) I was able to spend a month the summer after I graduated from high school traveling with my sisters (who were also using their library money) in Europe. It was our first introduction to Europe and being able to do it together was a wonderful and remarkable experience.
    These days I am still a regular library patron. My local library (the very one where I worked, although all together changed) is being renovated so I have to travel across town to check out books and return them. I love the new system of being able to select and hold them electronically and even check out some digitally but I still love to hold books. I have a Kindle but love my actual books too. Librarians are the best!

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    1. I was a page, too! I started at 14. Love your Europe trip - how fabulous!

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  27. As a child, we went to the Rochester NY Library, and there was a secret room, with a door only kids could fit through. The story lady was always in there! We were all convinced that she lived there. I thought maybe I had dreamed it up, but in recent years, they did a story on it. Great memories.

    During school years, my library was in the next town over, so I would walk there after school and stay til my mom got out of work. I'd get on a subject and read everything I could find on it. For a while it was Geoffrey Chaucer. I thought the Canterbury Tales were amazing (I had no idea what I was reading.) Then it was gymnastics. I am positive I raised a number of eyebrows when I became obsessed with childbirth at the age of 14. But the librarians never said a word, and helped me find great week-by-week guides. lol. In high school, this Catholic-raised girl decided to do a research paper on the Protestant Reformation. Why? God only knows. My mother developed a twitch that year.

    As an adult, every time we moved, which was often, my first stop was the town library. You can tell a lot about a town by it's library. And then one day I got a call from the local librarian. They needed a part time clerk. She was impressed with how I taught my children to respect the library and use it often, and considered that a stamp of approval. My library career began... Eventually I used the library to learn how to start a non-profit organization, formed a Friends of the Library group and started raising money and advocating for our little library. ;)

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    1. I love that! A kid sized door that leads to a story lady! And I love how you evolved into such an advocate for libraries. Bravo!

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  28. I used the library as a child and teenager but bought books or got them as gifts for many years after I started working. As books got more expensive, I started to use the library again, especially now I'm retired. I request books and DVD's and pick them up at my local branch.

    My family read most of James Michener's books and Pearl S. Bucks', too.

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    1. I definitely have a long term relationship with my library.

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  29. My grandma was a librarian in the children's section. Her favorite was curious George. She brought there to get stacks of books. I go to the library at least once a week.

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  30. Me, too! But mostly so I can work in peace and quiet.

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