Our Reading Lives

Making Friends at the Library

Sadie Trombetta

Staff Writer

Sadie Trombetta is a book reviewer and feminist writer who spends her free time hiking with her dogs, learning to teach yoga, and smashing the patriarchy. Follow her on Twitter: @lady_strombetta.

This is a guest post from Sadie Trombetta. Sadie is a freelance writer and self proclaimed foodie living in the greater Boston area. She is a ravenous reader, Netflix addict, and nature enthusiast who can usually be found hiking up one mountain or another with at least four books in her backpack. She’s a passionate feminist whose hobbies include cooking, crafting, and yoga.

Sadie’s writing has appeared in numerous online publications including Bustle, Ravishly, BookBub, The Kitchn, and Redbook. Her versatile work covers a range of topics including women’s issues, literature, cooking, health & wellness, and news. Follow her on Twitter @lady_strombetta.

I can still remember exactly how excited I felt the day I was handed my first library card. Bright blue and laminated with my messy, imperfect signature boldly affixed to the back of it, my library card quickly became one of my most prized possessions, and the library itself, my most beloved playground.

Now, twenty years and thousands of checked out books later, I’ve found the library to be a different kind of refuge for my adult self. Better than any bar I’ve ever been to, the library is the one place I always know I can find new adult friends.

When I was a kid, making friends was as easy as asking the person next to me if they want to be BFFs. In college, I formed lifelong friendships with roommates, classmates, and other students I met on campus, many of whom I still talk to today. But after I graduated from college and moved to New York City, alone, I wondered: how does an adult make friends?

Living in a brand new city full of millions of people I didn’t know, I found that most of my closest relationships came from my work. An underpaid, overworked newbie in the big bad work of publishing, it didn’t take long for me to form a group of strong, ambitious who I relied on for advice, comfort, and good-old-fashioned fun. But my cube mates weren’t the only friends I found. In an unfamiliar city, I made fast friendships at an old familiar place: the library.

From tiny towns to big cities, local libraries large and small are all amazing in their own ways, but none quite compare to the New York Public Library system. Not only does the NYPL house nearly 53 million items, it is the home to dozens of incredible programs, reading groups, author events, and exhibitions, and for me, it was the place I met some of the best people I know. As a stranger in a strange land, these libraries were a safe space I gravitated to where I found not only a comfortable work space, a peaceful hang out, and an endless supply of stories, but I found like minded people who would become real friends.

I had been going to the library every week for a few months when I finally decided to join a reading group. Nervous about walking into a room full of people just for fun made my palms sweaty, but knowing I’d be sitting in a building that felt like a second home to me made taking those steps over the threshold a little bit easier. And once I was inside, and the woman to my left smiled at me and asked, “So what did you think of the book?” I knew I was somewhere that I belonged, surrounded by people I belonged with.

Two years later, I made another big change and left my corporate job in the city in favor of self-employment and freelance writing from home in western Massachusetts where I went to college. Once again, I found my adult self in a setting far away from my friends and unsure of how to find new ones without the crutch of coworkers. As a telecommuter, I don’t have a water cooler to gossip around, a shared break room to chit chat in, or even a cubicle mate to annoy me. Most days, the only person I have to talk to is one of my four dogs.

Back in my college town without a single college friend still living there, my old home started to feel less friendly and familiar and more like a lonely and isolating place. Aside from my partner, our roommate, and a few shared friends, I didn’t have the same kind of friendly support group I had always surrounded myself with up until that point. Too old (and too bored) to hang around the college bar trying to befriend undergrads, and too young to join an official women’s social club, I knew exactly where I had to go: my local library.

A fraction of the size of the New York Public Library system that had become my home away from home, my local library was still an infinite refuge for a lonely stranger like me. On the library shelves, I found old familiar stories I loved, and discovered new ones that would become favorites. In the small reading room, I found a comfortable chair that made me feel safe and cozy, and a quiet setting that made me feel like I’d been there before. On the events board, I discovered a reading group about diversity that has become a beacon of hope in this darkened political time. I found an educational series about the environment that’s opened my eyes to the consequences of human action on the planet. I happened upon a creative writing group filled with more wonderful stories waiting to be written.

But most importantly, I found friendship in the library, and not just the fictional kind. I found people who shared the same love of reading I have, individuals who have inspired me to do (and read) more, and women and men who have reminded me that, no matter how old you get, you’re never too old to make friends.

That is, as long as you can find your local library branch. Like a life raft that comes with every new town or city I travel to, I know I can find friendship in the stacks.