Lately I’ve been lucky enough to be spending time in libraries…and remembering how much I love them. There’s something about the unmistakable scent of thousands of books; kids sprawled on the floor, reading; adults milling about, searching, and dreaming. Whether learning English, looking for a good novel, or researching tax laws, the library is a hushed hermitage, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.
It is too easy to assume that with the advent of our new millennium, the old style library is no longer vibrant and necessary. We hear of one county after another slashing library budgets, or threatening to cut off funding altogether. One of my best friends is a teen librarian in Princeton, New Jersey. She sees the library as one of the last true community spaces – and in particular, an alternative locale for teenagers to gather not only for homework help and research, but also to socialize in a safe, sane, fun setting.
Libraries have changed a lot since I spent much of my own childhood haunting their shelves – especially memorable are long, sweaty summer afternoons where the cool library offered a special sanctuary. These days access to the internet is a big draw, and there’s a tendency for book-lovers like me to look upon the infernal computer terminals as the end of civilization as we know it…and yet, a computer can be a great democratizing tool. Despite numerous obvious drawbacks, the internet has made it virtually impossible to stifle access to information.
Ultimately, that is a great thing.
The other day I was on a “Sisters in Crime” panel at the South Branch of the Berkeley Library, and it was heartening to see the little building packed with people of all ages and ethnicities on a summery Thursday evening. A couple of weeks ago I led a discussion of Sue Grafton at the South San Francisco Library, and there was a great turn out of Friends of the Library as well as others interested in mystery writing and reading in general.
My upcoming book, Brush with Death (July 3, 2007) has a special dedication to librarians and schoolteachers, who do so much to better the world. And it is now my personal mission to get my books onto the shelves of libraries across the nation. If anyone knows of libraries hungry for books, please tell them to contact me. I am happy to donate signed copies of the Agatha-Award nominated Feint of Art and bestselling Shooting Gallery to any public libraries who are willing and able to add them to their catalogued collection.
I would also love to hear your library stories.