Library Love

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“In the library, time is dammed up – not just stopped but saved. The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.”

I just finished reading Susan Orlean’s latest nonfiction, The Library Book, which got me reminiscing about the magical childhood hours I spent at the Carl Sandburg Library. I can still see the famous poet’s bronze statue staring down at me each time I approached the circulation desk.  I remember the conspiratorial smile the librarian gave me when I checked out my first book from the Adult Section: How to Increase Your Intelligence in 30 Days. ( Yes, even back then, little Evelyn was on the path to self-improvement.)

The Library Book (Simon & Schuster 2018) is an ode to libraries past and present. It is a thoroughly researched and captivating story of the catastrophic fire that engulfed the Los Angeles Library on April 28, 1986. Orlean’s vivid description, along with eye-witness  accounts, bring this devastating day and its aftermath to life.

“In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned.”

Ordinarily, I don’t like books about fires, but The Library Book contains so much more. In trying to decipher the mystery of the library (arson is suspected), Orlean takes us on a journey of fascinating real-life characters, political intrigue, romance, library architecture, book love, and the evolution of the library itself going back to the 1800’s.

“A library is a good place to soften solitude; a place where you feel part of a conversation that has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years even when you’re all alone.”

Sprinkled into this rich story are Orlean’s own fond childhood reminiscences of visiting the library with her mother who now has dementia.

I highly recommend the Library Book to library lovers and bibliophiles who also enjoy history and true crime mysteries. 

Growing up, the library was my oasis. It still is. When I find myself in new areas, I often look for the local library. From the sparkling modern to the creaking historical—I love them all. 

Here are a few of my favorites.

1.  Johnson Public Library,  Johnson Vermont.

Only library in town. Tiny but cozy, with a sunny reading nook. Friendly staff. Great poetry collection. Near the Vermont Studio Center artist residence.

IMG_7769.jpeg“In times of trouble, libraries are sanctuaries.”

2. Harold Washington Library, Chicago

A huge library with stunning architecture. A variety of interesting artwork on each of the 11 floors. Beautiful roof top garden atrium. You can easily spend a day here.

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“The library is a whispering post. You don`t need to take a book off a shelf to know there is a voice inside that is waiting to speak to you..”

2. Memorial Library, Booth Bay Harbor, Maine

This Greek-revival style library has been remodeled since its 1906 inception. Behind the library is a porched Friends Store–a treasure trove of bargain books. Wonderful children’s space.

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Heidi Kirn

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“Public libraries in the United States outnumber McDonald’s; they outnumber retail bookstores two to one.”

4. Providence Atheneum, Providence, Rhode Island

An independent, member-supported library open to the public since 1838. Near campus of Brown University. Its Greek temple style architecture and high ceilings make this small library feel spacious. Special antique and first edition collections of children’s books, nature, art, and British and American literature.

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Nat Rae. ProvidenceAnthenuem.org

5. Fogg Library, S. Weymouth, MA

Renaissance Revival stone library built in 1897.  The historical building houses a children’s library and lovely upstairs study space.

 

 

 

“The library is a prerequisite to let citizens make use of their right to information and freedom of speech. Free access to information is necessary in a democratic society, for open debate and creation of public opinion.”

6. Eldredge Library, Chatham, MA

Small-town historic library on Cape Cod. Its stain-glass windows, oak wainscoting, marble foyer, and large wooden mantle fireplace take you back in time.

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7. West Bloomfield Township Library, W. Bloomfield, MI

A National Medal modern library with inviting spaces for all. Fabulous children’s area.

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West Bloomfield Children's

8. Ames Free Library, Easton, MA

An architectural gem, opened 1883. A spiral staircase connects the two floors. Peaceful landscaped gardens with pond and fountain. Truly a sanctuary.

Ames (North_Easton,_

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9. New York Public Library, 42nd Street and Fifth Ave.

While not exactly a cozy reading library in my mind, it’s not to be missed. Take a free tour. Enjoy the famous “between the lions” steps, the grand foyer, impressive architecture, art collection, classic reading room, map room, and special exhibits. (Walt Whitman:American Poet through 8/30/19). The gift shop is my favorite!

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“The number of books destroyed or spoiled was equal to the entirety of fifteen typical branch libraries. It was the greatest loss to any public library in the history of the United States.”

10.  My Secret Library Writing Room

LIbrary Spot

Which library do you love?

 

 

22 responses

  1. Love your library love post! Libraries are my favorite place to go when visiting a new town. I nearly always feel welcome, and there is a computer or WiFi nearby. The libraries you had visited look amazing! I love the photos and architecture of the libraries you mention in your post. The Harold Washington Library was the first library I visited in Chicago. I loved it the few times I used it. I sometimes go to the Bezazian Library, one of many Chicago Public Libraries. It is not as fancy as the Harold Washington, but it is cozy enough to get to know your neighbors and the local Sheriff, whom I spotted at the computers. Your description of libraries makes me want to go on a library tour across our lovely nation! I have recently wondered what librarians do and what those who major in library science do. The reason I ask is because some rehab counselors suggest this as a field for those with PTSD because they assume that their work is more isolated than team-dependent. I was curious to know if librarians operate differently or the same, work on teams or independently, etc. I am also hoping to visit the Library of Congress one day – that is, if they allow tours for the general public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, for the Chicago tip, Gayle. I hope to check out more of the city’s libraries on my next work trip. My home town library is very small and has structural problems. Fortunately, it received a grant for renovation in a new spot, still walking distance for me. I know all the librarians and when I come in one will say, “Hi Evelyn, your books are in.” I love your idea of a library tour! Yes, libraries are vital ,free public spaces where everyone is welcome. In the Library Book, the author explores the future of libraries in the digital age. Libraries are more than a repository of books–they offer programming for all ages, workshops, computers and WIFI, media, career and educational resources. Thanks for reading, Gayle.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It wouldn’t have been a great book if it was just about the fire etc- it was all the other details of the libraries history and her personal experiences which made it a great book. The library you grew up going to very similar to mine- small but I never thought of it as small when I was young. It had all those great books! Helped me become a life long reader… love the pictures of the other libraries- the one in Providence being my favorite.

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    • Thank you. I agree about the book. Some readers thought it was too detailed and jumped around, but I enjoyed it. I looked up my childhood library online and the building still looks the same. Next time I’m back there, I’d like to go inside to see if I could “feel” myself back in time. I live in MA but just discovered the Providence Atheneum last year. It’s a 30 minute drive. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Love all these library recommendations, will definitely visit them the next time I go to the states! Here in Hong Kong, there aren’t many libraries and book stores because sadly literature isn’t huge in the culture here. It’s great to visit HK libraries though if you’re looking for Chinese literature and history!

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    • I hope you can make the trip. Another one for you would be the Boston Public Library. They offer a wonderful tour and great artwork to see. I didn’t realize that Hong Kong lacked diversity in libraries. I’ve never been to China, though. Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Wow, it looks like we’re kindred spirits. I work in a library and take pictures of great libraries wherever I go. I’ll never get over the fact that after I got home from a trip to Budapest I found out it has one of the most amazing libraries in the world. I missed it.
    Looks like a good book, thanks for the recommendation.

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    • I think you’ll definitely like the book, Library Lady. Your tale about Budapest reminds me of the Girls Scout motto: Always be prepared! You are lucky to have traveled there. I have yet to see any European libraries. My daughter spent a year studying in London. She said the libraries were quite different–more researched based. It was quite an ordeal for her just to get a user card. Please stop by again!

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  5. I too enjoyed Susan Orleans’s The Library Book. Her research, including interviews of certain eyewitnesses, made for intrigue and continuing interest in the resolution of the cause of the fire. You did a great job of sharing the depth and love exhibited in the book for libraries and saving everything possible in this tragic fire.

    I also enjoyed your images of your favorite libraries. I suppose if I must pick a favorite it would be the first library I visited at the age of 6 or 7 with my dad. It was the East Nashville Library, one of the original Carnegie Libraries in the city of Nashville. I still remember the look and feel of the place as well as the smell of books.

    Evelyn, thanks for this beautiful post.

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    • Thank you, Sherry for your thoughtful comment. I’m glad you, too, enjoyed The Library Book. I’ve never visited Nashville. I’ve read many writers reminsicing about their childhood library and how it influenced them as a book lover and writer.

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    • Thanks, Ray, I highly recommend the tour. If you like history, then Boston’s the place. I liked your blog post description of visiting San Francisco. I was there 10 years ago after winning a grant from Wells Fargo Bank. I even got to ride in their famous stage coach. Sorry to hear about your Dad. We are both members of that sad club.

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