As a kid, on hot summer days I loved taking my bike down the hill behind our house to the little library tucked on one side of Cole Shopping Center. I had some sort of carrier for the books I’d check out; although I don’t remember its shape or color, a clear muscle memory remains, of carefully stacking my treasures so they’d all fit inside for the ride home. I’d be back in just a few days to find something new to absorb my long afternoons and open my world, far away from our house on Foxcroft Road.
It wasn’t long, however, before I started acquiring my own collection of books. A school vendor, Scholastic I think, offered some kind of deal where purchasing books from them would earn points that could be “spent” on free books. Just my kind of thing! That was the beginning of my own personal and lifelong desire to not just read books but to acquire them myself.
Nonfiction and reference books on the main floor, and my reading chair, where I also knit, watch TV, and occasionally do artwork.
Luckily I found, fell in love with, and married someone who, as a young boy in Worland, Wyoming, devoured every Hardy Boys mystery (and much more) in *his* local library.
Our mutual appreciation of words eventually led to our bookstore business. More importantly, it is a hallmark of our relationship and indeed, our lives together.
So we have our very own library. It sits 20 feet away from where I write this, one of the many additions to our original log cabin, on the flats north of Driggs, in an alfalfa field with a beautiful view of the Tetons.
I’m blessed to be surrounded by books. But I’m often on the quest for something that’s not yet on our shelves.
In the last ten days, even in my small rural area, I’ve visited (and checked out books from) three public libraries. These institutions are in two states — Jackson and Alta in Wyoming, and Victor, Idaho, a mile from Rusty’s house. Speaking of miles, my cross-border literary consumption covers about 550 of them; I just received a book via Wyoming’s inter-library loan system (from Laramie) of a title strongly recommended by a avid-reader friend (author Cort Conley, director of literature for the Idaho Commission on the Arts) in Boise.
My good friend Eva Dahlgren — former longtime Dark Horse employee who has been a fulltime librarian for something like eight years now — told me this week about a piece by author Neil Gaiman. The essay’s all about libraries and the importance of reading for kids, and adults, even in this techno age (here’s the link to it).
Wow, struck such a responsive chord in me! In seconds, it took me back to those childhood bike rides in Cheyenne.
The title pretty much says it all: Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.
If you don’t get the point from that, the subtitle goes even farther: A lecture explaining why using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, is an obligation for all citizens.
We have three shelves like this one along both the north and south walls of the mezzanine. This is our collection of travel books of all types.
Just one of the quotes she called to my attention: According to Eric Schmidt of Google, every two days now the human race creates as much information as we did from the dawn of civilisation until 2003. That’s about five exobytes of data a day, for those of you keeping score. The challenge becomes, not finding that scarce plant growing in the desert, but finding a specific plant growing in a jungle. We are going to need help navigating that information to find the thing we actually need. Libraries are places that people go to for information.
If that blip doesn’t make you want to read Gaiman’s whole essay — it takes ten minutes, max — here’s one that jumped off the page to me (and maybe explains, better than I ever could, why I still love to read a great novel): Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
The center section, fiction, on the west wall of the mezzanine. Peter built this giant shelving unit while I was traveling in Asia seven years ago.
That’s the bottom line for me.
I know that reading has made me better, made me different.
May today you encourage a child to read, pick up a book to inspire yourself, or maybe sit down to write a few lines of your own.
These three photos, for those who have wondered what our library looks like, provide some views of it. Trust me, it’s oh so much better in person! And when we’re gone from this world, I’m guessing our books will end up — where else — in a library.