Scrolling through the book offerings on various publishing sites, searching for something new to pique my interest, I’ve noted the abundance of novels with the word ‘library’ in the title. Curiosity tickled, I Googled sites that listed 388 current or recent novels with the words library or book as part of their name. (https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/164830.Books_with_Library_in_the_Title)

Wow! And most of those titles sell very well with the public. I’m not surprised. The local library played an instrumental role in my personal and professional development. But I wondered how I might explain this phenomenon in a broader sense. What fascinates us about libraries? Why read books set in them? Why write those books? It didn’t take long for me to slip into memory and realize that, for me, the local public library was itself a magical world. I do not recall the first time I visited the library, and my recollection of the time line between the original and rthe newest version of the building is hazy, but the impact of the library still rings true.

The first word I associate with the library is SMELL…books, bound and glued and inked, wrapped in covers that themselves are swaddled in plastic sheeting to preserve the volumes, perhaps a touch of musty from passing through so many hands, so much weather…my nose conjures the change in the air as I push through the door and enter the repository of known and unknown things. The odor assails, breathing out from the pages of the works inside.

Next comes that hushed SILENCE…as I enter a royal sanctuary, a temple of words with chapels for every kind of book — mystery, science fiction, cooking, sports. If the book I seek isn’t on this library’s available list, I can submit a request and have it sent from another branch. Patrons respect the quiet rule, immersing themselves in the solitude of the space. We are seekers in on a quest…sometimes known, other times only an itch.

Then there is MAGIC…the feeling of being in the presence of an alchemical charge. Alone or leading my siblings, I walked a long way to the library, excitement my companion. What wonders would I uncover on this trip? I checked out as many books as the librarian allowed and carried them back home. Ensconced in the only comfortable chair we owned, I read until my mother shooed me outside, promising that I’d go blind if I didn’t stop reading so much. I didn’t listen, devouring the Nancy Drews and Judy Boltons, reading The Mystery of Camp Laughing Water repeatedly, graduating to The Collected Works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, every James Michener novel, and so many others. Over the years, I challenged myself to read every book in the fiction section, only making it to the M’s by the time I graduated high school.

Growing up without much money, purchasing books was an option reserved for birthdays or Christmas. The ones my aunt gifted me still occupy a place of honor on my shelves, including a book by Jane Abbott called Janny. How wonderful to read a story in which a girl with my name played the title role! But I never stopped visiting the library. A single book can and does transport the reader to the past or the future, to big cities and small towns, offering escape and thrills and every possible experience that exists beyond the place where I live. When my children and grandchildren were small, a trip to the library became a highlight of our time together. They learned how magical the library can be. (https://the-bibliofile.com/books-about-libraries-librarians/)

Is it any wonder that writers find that same sense of wonder in setting their plots in the library? Recent attacks on librarians, renewed attempts to ban books, and efforts to prevent readers from choosing for themselves which books to read are chilling. What can we do? Advocate. Support our local libraries. Thank a librarian. Best of all, read!

Looking for something about libraries or books? Check out any of the links in the post…Happy Reading!