Libraries: Check It Out

This week is National Library Week, and yesterday was National Library Workers Day. Hurray! I have always depended on the kindness of librarians.

Libraries have been at the center of my imaginings for as long as I can remember. I recall being around 11 and taking out tall stacks of books at one time — we had a big leather club chair at home and I would lounge there and go through the books one by one when I probably should have been outside playing. One volume in particular excited me, about Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, and other supernatural oddities — I don’t recall if the witika was in it.  I remember being enthralled by E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It.

The town where I grew up had a new library with a splendid view of the Hudson River. A place I spent a lot of time pursuing my Virginia Woolf and Tristram Shandy obsessions in my teens.

By the time I was in college I realized that no one was going to come hang me if I kept books out longer than their due dates. Once in a while there was an amnesty, which saved me from paying huge fines. I loved the mellow aroma of book paper in the darkened stacks, creeping around to find what I needed or sometimes just creeping around for the mysterious fun of it.

As a professional writer I have relied upon libraries and librarians of all stripes — local, academic, the Westchester Library System (which is great), the New York Public Library, archival collections. Book stores are great and you can get many sources on line these days, but nothing matches the depth of library collections for getting the information I need. I remember when I first stumbled upon The Iconography of Manhattan Island, by I.N. Phelps Stokes, a source I have relied upon for my last three books, at a college library near my house, it was like finding gold. I could never afford the six giant vintage tomes but I could stand at the copy machine and make duplicates of hundreds of pages if I wanted to. Which I did.

I am looking forward with excitement to a conversation I will have on line this afternoon with librarians, to discuss The Orphanmaster. I know the questions will be perspicacious, penetrating and illuminating.

Click here to join in the conversation:

If you don’t catch it the first time around, the chat will be archived at the same link.

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Filed under Jean Zimmerman, Writers

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