Libraries: My Home Away From Home

Book Riot Live 2016 will take place November 12 and 13 in New York City.


If you’re a librarian, I want to make sure I meet you at Book Riot Live.

For the first ten years of my life, I lived in a Midwestern village that had the great distinction of hosting the most magnificent building in the world.

The uppermost level had a Victorian dollhouse and a wooden train set, and I could take home as many books as could fit the distance between my locked elbows and my chin. The lowest level had a room with a huge piano. One year, I surprised my piano teacher by actually practicing for the annual recital given in that room. Walking up to that piano, declining the sheet music she was trying to slip me, is my earliest memory of feeling proud of myself (and that recital selection remains the only piano piece that’s still in my fingers).

The middle levels weren’t at all interesting. But I would often walk up and down the staircase that connected them all and admire the art prints hanging in the stairwell. As soon as I was tall enough to read the information card next to my favorite print, I decided that the best artist ever was Jackson Pollock. He was better than…well, you know, all those other artist people.

And every visit began and ended with a reverential viewing of the latest display case treasures.

The people who worked there kept taking my allowance just because I’d misplace a little laminated card. But aside from those nefarious librarians, my first library was perfection.

You probably have at least one fond reminiscence in you pertaining to the libraries in your life. I mean, even my less magical second library managed to make an impression on me. That library was where I picked up blank tax forms the spring after working my first summer job. It was the place I could suggest for study sessions when, years after our move, there were still unpacked boxes at home underneath all the junk and old clothes that needed mending. Most of the days that I furiously pedaled away from my house fully intending to ride my bike until I found a passing freight train to hop, I wound up cooling off in the stacks instead.

The librarians continued to rob me blind.

But I am older and wiser and keep my library card with my house keys now, and I appreciate that librarians are not bridge trolls. Their dedication to their patrons is manifested in all those things — tangible and intangible — that have drawn me to libraries my whole life. Their job is beyond books, and guess what? Beyond the Books is one of the amazing panels we have planned for Book Riot Live 2016. Librarians on the panel will be talking about all the things they do to enrich their communities, and attending librarians are sure to come away with great ideas for their home branches. And school librarians won’t want to miss Rise Up: Using Your Voice to Make Change wherein middle grade and young adult authors will focus on how to empower their readers. And NYPL Correctional Services librarian Emily Jacobson is sure to inspire on the Rethinking Justice panel.

And I’m going to be there, thanking librarians for all the replaced library cards and apologizing for all the overdue fees. And letting them know that they provide homes away from homes.

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