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?
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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?
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!
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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