Monday, June 15, 2015

A Love Letter to Libraries

The beautiful atrium in the beautiful Vancouver library...

Recently, I read this article, “In Circulation: Libraries as Monuments” by Madeline Rose Williams, and it has lingered with me.

Williams asks, "[W]here did you sign your first library card? One of those tiny branches, tucked into a small town alongside the post-office and fire-station with all of three fire-trucks? Do you remember escaping summer’s blanket of heat for the still, air-conditioned cool of the library to pick out your summer reading from the children’s section, counting to make sure you hadn’t gone over the seven- or ten-book limit?”

I think all readers and writers instinctively feel at home in libraries. Unsurprisingly, I have been a lifetime lover of libraries. I do remember signing my first library card at the Grandview Heights Public Library. When I was little, I loved choosing books and videos to bring home with me…my family went almost every week. My middle school and high school was right down the street from this library, and we’d frequently walk over during class to do research. We could sneak upstairs, find some comfy chairs along an aisle, and hide out from the rest of the class.

In each city I’ve lived, in every school where I’ve taught, I get to know the library. The Vancouver Public Library is a gorgeous, many-windowed structure right downtown. It’s so full of light. In LA, I lived right across the street from the Venice-Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library…it was salmon pink and seafoam green, a little crumbly, and completely charming. Here in Columbus, we’re proud of earning a high national ranking for many years running (here’s an article about the library system in The Atlantic).

There’s a real sense of both the public and the private in libraries, and I cherish that. The library is a community space full of resources—it is valuable as a meeting place or classroom, as a quiet spot to daydream or work. And I have to say that some of my favorite people are librarians. Often, I’ve met someone I’ve immediately clicked with, and I find out they they work in a library…cool, caring people make these places tick!

So, I’m curious—what are your favorite libraries? What are you looking for when you visit the library?


  1. Oh, Hannah--what a glowing post to start the week. I am proud and a little amazed on a regular basis to be able to say that I am a librarian. Some days, it hardly seems fair that I get paid for this much fun. Like you, I remember my childhood library with such fondness and clarity. The children's room was upstairs--a huge, sunny room with battered wood floors and treasure on the shelves. The duality of the library as both public and private--full of information and full of corners for dreaming--continues to spark something inside me. My friends/family/traveling companions are all now accustomed to the idea that vacations includes hunting up and visiting local libraries--and when that library is having a book sale at the same time? Instant memento. I once had to forego sundress shopping in Monterey to fit into my suitcase a copy of Crabb's English Synonymes, copyright 1917, from their public library book sale. What a wonderful trade-off.

    1. Like I said, librarians are just the best!! :)

      Library book sales are AMAZING. I love the memory that you've shared here. Thanks for all that you do!

  2. My favorites: New York Public Library (whenever I get a chance to visit NYC) and Library of Congress in D.C. That said, I also give credit locally; Arlington County, Va., has an excellent library system with very interesting history that is now online.

    1. Enormous, old libraries are so beautiful, aren't they? I'm glad your local library rocks, too, Maureen!


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