Chick Chat: Why Our Local Libraries Rock!

We all love libraries; that’s a no-brainer, right? I mean c’mon, books. For free. With fabulous librarians who can help with a research question, or provide advise on whose mysteries are most like those by Diane Mott Davidson or Donna Leon. Not only that, but they buy and circulate books written by the CHICKS—wow!

Our Chick Chat question for today, however, is this: What is it about our own local libraries that we most appreciate? What special resources or services do our town’s libraries provide that we want to, er…crow about?

Lisa Q. Mathews

Well, in the year I was born, the NH town where I now live had 345 residents. Now it’s up to about 1900. When we moved here, the library was housed in the old 1-room schoolhouse next to the town hall (those are the only 2 buildings in the town). The books were recently moved into the town hall, because it costs too much to heat the schoolhouse. We also have a Little Free Library in the parking lot.

I travel the 2.3 miles to the neighboring “big” town (we share a post office/zip code) to use the beautiful Fuller Library. It used to be someone’s mansion, with beautiful woodworking and Tiffany windows and a large, sweeping front porch where you can buy a bag of used books for a dollar. This library is the lifeblood of several small towns, providing services some people might not otherwise have. Want to borrow an oil paint set for the virtual painting class? It will cost you 2 can donations for the Food Pantry. I am a proud member of the Mystery Book Club. We all have different reading tastes and each month at least 4 of the 6 members hate the chosen book. I love all of them.

 Ellen Byron

When you live in a major metropolis like I do – “Hell-A,” as the hub and I call it – it’s easy for a l’il author like me to get lost among the A-listers. But my neighborhood branch of Los Angeles’ famed library system is wonderfully supportive of us local authors. I’ve become friends with our adult librarian, Emily (Hi, Emily!), to the point where we and other authors on any library panel she puts me on go out for drinks post-event. Emily has also an enormous help when I have the occasional research question. I hope this shout-out lets her know how much I value our connection.

My local library’s Friends of the Library book sales even inspired the theme of a new series I’ll be writing for Berkley. Before Covid slew it, I’d go to their monthly sales and got in the habit of buying old cookbooks, my favorite being a 1928 Photoplay cookbook with “Recipes of the Stars.” (If you want John Barrymore’s spaghetti recipe, LMK.) Thanks to these sales, I look forward to introducing all of you to the Vintage Cook Mysteries, coming in 2022!

Vickie Fee

In downtown Marquette, Michigan, Peter White Public Library is a grand Beaux Arts building, circa 1900, fronted with broad stairs and fluted columns. It’s made of a grayish-white limestone that contrasts with the reddish sandstone construction of most of the other major buildings in town. Inside, the library features aged oak staircases and trim and marble floors. It’s a beautiful building and a much-loved and much-used resource in our community. What I love most about my local library: It’s only three blocks from my home. And I get to see my books on the shelves! 

Cynthia Kuhn

Wherever I live, the library is one of my favorite places–from the old brick building we frequented when I was growing up to the bright, modern space in my town now. There are, of course, tons of books as well as computer stations and lovely meeting rooms. They’ve brought in so many fantastic authors as speakers and our local Sisters in Crime chapter also meets there, so it holds fond memories. The branch is always busy, full of patrons looking for a satisfying read, and just walking through the doors lifts my spirits, every time. 

Leslie Karst

Two things stick out for me regarding my local Santa Cruz branch library. The first is that it hosts wonderful special events on a regular basis, such as readings, lectures, and meetings of various kinds. I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in several author readings at my local library, and another of the branches not too far from my house has hosted our local Sisters in Crime chapter meetings (and that particular branch, in Scotts Valley, has some astounding papier-mâché animals hanging from the ceiling).

In addition, their special collection of manuscripts has been invaluable to me in my research for my Sally Solari mysteries—in particular the transcriptions of oral histories of some of the town’s Italian fishermen, whose colorful accounts of their lives and of Santa Cruz of old have provided wonderful detail for my books. So, yay for the Santa Cruz County Library!

Kathleen Valenti

How do I love my library? Let me count the ways. Our local library has small town feels AND big ideas. In addition to boasting the services of its big city brethren, our li’l ol’ library welcomes a diverse group of amazing, award-winning (we’re talking Pulitzer, National Book, Edgar, etc.) authors every year for its Author! Author! series. They’ve hosted Colson Whitehead, Cheryl Strayed, Erik Larson, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Richard Russo…and that’s just for starters. They also offer teacher-led online language courses, games for check-out, curriculum crates for homeschooling/distance learning families, book clubs, services like Book a Librarian and Lawyer in the Library, writers’ workshops and, naturally, books.

OH, and they also have a no-shame overdue policy in which they do whatever they can to keep you reading, despite fines you may have racked up if, say, your son misplaced The Deathly Hallows for seven weeks. Did I mention how much I love my library?

Becky Clark

In addition to all the fun stuff that goes on INSIDE my local library—lectures, story time (with a great big dragon to climb on), group meetings (once I stumbled on a room full of about 100 people, all involved in the “Knitted Knockers” project, so I grabbed a pattern and sent it to my mom who started knitting prosthetic breasts for cancer survivors), a state-of-the-art recording studio, quiet rooms, books, music, and movies to check out—there’s also year-round fun OUTSIDE!

In the summer they have weekly concerts in the band shell where you can bring a chair or blanket and sit on the grass to listen to some great music. They have a splash pad with those jets of water that kids and dogs can play in. They drag out some outdoor games like cornhole or oversized tic-tac-toe for anyone wandering by to play. And in the winter, they transform the concert grass area to an ice skating ribbon! There are heaters all around and a place to buy hot drinks and snacks. It’s so cute to watch the skaters … some really little ones (and some not so little ones) who push around those stands for balance. Year-round there are exercise classes going on, people (like me) who walk their dogs there, folks sitting on the benches and simply enjoying the area. Our district libraries are very busy … don’t let anyone tell you libraries are dead!

Jennifer Chow

I love the local library support for authors and readers. It’s very easy to recommend a book to the Los Angeles Public Library by using an online form. Also, both L.A. County and the City of Los Angeles support the Indie Author Project, an e-book discovery service that boosts indie authors. I also enjoy the varied library programming and am so glad they currently offer virtual events and even curbside craft projects for kids.  

Readers, drop us a note in the comments below! What do you love about your local library?

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28 thoughts on “Chick Chat: Why Our Local Libraries Rock!

  1. I second the praise for Emily. I’ve gone to some fun events at Ellen’s local library. Technically, I’m not in that library’s system (our libraries here in the greater LA area are weird), but I’ve been welcome to the fun special events with open arms.

    I’ve got three libraries here in the town here I live, and two of them are in different buildings than they were when I moved to town in the mid-90’s. While I do appreciate the new, modern buildings, there is something I miss about the old, overflowing, crowded libraries.

    And if you are wondering about our weird libraries, we have LA County and LA City libraries, which are two different systems. My libraries have separated themselves. We aren’t even part of an independent library network any more, which does make tracking down audiobooks a bit harder. Audiobooks are the main thing I use a library for these days.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Emily is great! (I should’ve stayed for those drinks afterward, El!)

      What I like about having so many different branches, like Mark said, is that I get extra access to books galore. (A lot of the library systems in the entire state of California allow you to access them without being a resident which makes my literary lovin’ heart happy.)

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Mark, so glad you gave Emily a shout-out! I had no idea your Santa Clarita libraries were in their own world. I agree, the whole LA city and LA county library separate systems are confounding. But the more libraries, the merrier!


  2. I don’t get to my local library often now that I no longer live within walking distance of one, but one of my favorite things they do is put on a local author signing every year. It probably won’t happen this year and was canceled last year, but I went the past two years. It’s so great getting a chance to talk to fellow authors in the area. And selling books is always an added bonus.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Our libraries are currently closed again for in-person visits because of our second lockdown but they are still open for curbside pick-up of holds.

    In normal times, the Ottawa Public Library had way more resources than just hard copy books, ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, DVDs and online content. They also hosted author readings, seminars and a wide range of workshops to learn different skills. They also have a musical instrument lending library, as well as 1-day passes for families to visit the dozens of national museums/art galleries for free. You can also borrow another free day pass for nearby Gatineau Park (in Quebec) to use the 100s of km/miles of x-cross ski and snowshoe hiking trails.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love that they lend out musical instruments! That reminded me of when I used to work at the community college library when I went there one year. We used to lend artwork. I’d bring home huge oil paintings and hang them in my bedroom for three weeks then replace them with another one. Seems funny now, but it made perfect sense at the time!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I miss browsing for the newest mystery! Our library has been closed for in-person use since last March. That said, they’ve pivoted as much as possible and offer free weekly craft kits for teens and adults for which my daughter and I often sign up. And I’ve become more adept at using Hoopla for getting online books.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I managed to download one book from the library, Katy, and then the skill totally disappeared! I haven’t been able to figure it out since. Our library uses something called Overdrive, I think.


  5. Congrats on the new series, Ellen!

    I haven’t been inside our local library since COVID hit. My favorite is the Oakmont branch of the Carnegie Library System, reportedly one of the last of the Carnegie libraries to be built. It’s a delightful brick building (they enlarged it several years ago and were careful to maintain the look). The librarians are friendly and I went to make visiting author events there. It’s where our SinC chapter holds its workshops, too.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I am loving hearing about everyone’s libraries and towns–they all sound so cool! Our library has stayed open here in NH. I’m the only mystery book club member who has not been attending the monthly meetings in person, because I am super cautious, but I try to keep up on the books. Feb. is The Mother-in-Law. Anyone read it?

    Liked by 1 person

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