Yes, I know, there are rules to using a physical library, a brick and mortar building of hushed voices, high ceilings, row upon row of worn and handled books, lofty ideals and hope, earnest absorption and the concentrated knowledge of so many others at your fingertips. But I don’t mean those rules. I mean the library rules!
I am ashamed to say, I haven’t been inside a library for years, performing all my research on-line or through the use of books I have purchased for that purpose. However, last week I had a few hours of time during which I couldn’t leave the Doylestown area, and decided to spend it in the library I used to frequent when I lived in Bucks County.
Oh. Freaking. My.
It was like coming home.
Yes, indeed, I found myself enveloped by warm and fuzzy welcome. And unlike the internet, where you pretty much need to know exactly what you seek before you search, in the library you are free to wander down the aisles, drawing books from the shelves at random for your researching pleasure. And draw out books I did, taking them one at a time to a comfy chair at the end of the aisle where I perused each with an eye to anything that caught my fancy. As the first fascinating tidbit of information jumped out at me, I wrote it down, which then led me to search for more and more, until I had wandered down each and every aisle and filled multiple pages of a purple (I have a particular affinity for purple) spiral-bound notebook with facts and quotes and references, enough for me to have formulated a rough idea of an entire storyline.
Goodness, I had forgotten how wonderful that felt.
Unfortunately, I also found signs that the library had succumbed to the digital age, as the amount of shelving, and therefore books upon them, had shrunken considerably. Alas, such is progress. Who am I to deny the benefits? Still, I hold a special place in my heart for the sanctity of the library, with gentle and loving remembrance of a certain few.
The Somers Library in Upstate New York, lodged in a tiny one-hundred-year-old house with the children’s section fitted into the space beneath the attic eaves. Perfect. Adults couldn’t even stand up there.
Or the erstwhile Cherry Hill Library in New Jersey (I believe it has since grown into something new and therefore remarkable—but I may be mistaken), where I found copies of personal correspondence written by the men and women who lived through the brutal sepoy rebellion in India. The brutality existed on both sides, as did the noble acts of selflessness and bravery, something of which I hadn’t been entirely aware until I read the descriptive words contained in those journal entries and missives.
And, of course, I cannot ever forget the grade-school library where I discovered my favorite book of childhood, Apples Every Day. So enamored was I of the story penned by Grace Richardson that I renewed it over and over again and even wrote a letter to the author, who wrote back to me. I still have the letter, written with lovely penmanship and containing a promise from Ms. Richardson that if she wrote a sequel, she would give Gabby a horse, just for me.
In conclusion, I shall reiterate: the library rules. It rules the places in my heart where inspiration curls in want of awakening, it rules the places in my mind where the roots of inspiration have grown to blossom upon their lurch from slumber. It rules my reader’s longing for worlds that would otherwise be hidden from me, and it rules my writer’s passion.
Quite clearly, the Library Rules.