What do libraries mean to YOU?
I recently started reading Susan Orleans’ latest, The Library Book. Her memories of the power the library had for her as a child—as a place where she first experienced autonomy and could delight in both a free treat and special time with her mother—got me thinking back to my own childhood library experiences.
Like Orleans, I grew up in a house where there wasn’t a lot of money to buy books—the times when we could order something from the Scholastic school book order were thrilling indeed! But my mother always made sure we had books to read and if memory serves she was on a first name basis with all of the children’s librarians.
Orleans was in Madison last week, thanks to the Madison Public Library and an incredibly generous bequest from a local library lover, Helen Matheson Rupp. Her amazing $3.4 million donation to the library made our evening with Orleans possible (including—hooray!—a copy of the book) and recently funded improvements to a local library and a librarian to oversee their teen section.
As expected, Orleans was funny and smart and her book—which chronicles the Los Angeles central library, the destructive fire of 1986 that provides the story’s framework and all things library in general—is quite fascinating.
If you haven’t stopped by a library of late, put it off no longer! The “shh, quiet” atmosphere of my childhood has largely been replaced by a busy feeling of community, but the sense of wide-ranging possibility that only a book can offer remains. Enjoy!