On Public Libraries

When I was a kid, my mom would take me to the library every week. The rule was that I could get as many books as I wanted, but I had to carry them.

I took this very literally. I would stagger up to the counter with a stack as high as my chin, sometimes actually using my chin to keep everything from falling. I would devour entire piles of books in a few days – I’d sit and pick one and then read it, then the next, then the next.

Libraries opened up my view of the world. I grew up in a small town on the edge of miles upon miles of canyonland, on an arid valley plain once named after a mule (?) skeleton, to give an idea of how rural it was. There wasn’t much to do in the summer other than play outside and go to the pool, which cost money that we didn’t have.

We couldn’t afford many toys, so we made our own: searching for bits of pottery (there were quite a few random chunks of plates, or something, in my backyard); digging a muddy “pool” since we could barely afford a VCR, let alone a $20k swimming pool. But I read. I read so much my mom had to force me to go outside…so I took my book with me until I got dizzy on the swing bench.

Thank God for libraries, because we were so poor we could barely afford food, and yet I was able to have such a wonderful childhood when it came to the imagination. We made maps. We wrote and performed plays. We designed our own costumes and games.

Imagination is a precious thing. Fueling it is so important. I was able to go to the library and have access to all sorts of thoughts and ideas and maps and paintings and fantasy realms and more, for free, and bring them home. As many as I could carry.

I now have two novels out – and one is in my hometown library (!). My book is available through two national chains, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones, and yet I still consider having it on a library shelf a bigger honor, thank God. I’d donate my book to all sorts of libraries if I could.

Thank you, librarians, and those who fund libraries. I don’t know how many lives you may have touched, but I know I owe a huge debt.