Living in libraries

What is the purpose of a library?  What is a library?  A safe place, a place where the imagination can run riot, a place where I can find a job or learn a skill or use the computer or discover something new, every single day.

I love libraries. One of my earliest memories is of the parking lot of the old Santa Cruz Carnegie library, getting into the car with an armload of treasures.

As a writer, it is an honor to have my work on library shelves.  There are ten thousand places in this world where I will never visit, but where I live, where people love me, through the time-soft pages and scratched plastic jacket covers of library books.

As part of this week’s National Library Week celebration, and the end of the celebration of my 20th anniversary as a writer, I’m giving away five pieces of myself:

Five Martinellis

There’s a complete set of the Kate Martinelli novels, from A Grave Talent to The Art of Detection, for the person who moves me the most with a statement of what a library is to him or her.  Your entry can be anything: photograph, poem, letter. Send it (or a picture of it) to me here, no later than midnight on Friday.

We love libraries.

Posted in ,


  1. Sara Holloway on April 17, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I have worked in a library for 34 years, since I was 15 years old. From my earliest memories, books and the public library have played a vital part of my life. I decided to become a librarian while in college, and now my daily life is surrounded by books of all types – print, spoken word and e-content. The library sums up the essence of my core being. Every answer to every question lies within its walls; food for the soul awaits when I walk through the doors or access the website. What would life be without a library in my life? A ceaseless, barren desert without hope of an oasis.

  2. Barbara Anderson on April 17, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    As the much younger child in a large family, I was told early to be “seen and not heard” when we visited older relatives on Sundays. Reading was my answer. I was thrilled when our small town started a small library when I was in 6th grade. It became a place to explore and journey beyond the confines of south central Pennsylvania. As a parent I took full advantage of the activities our growing library offered-story times and visits to local hidden treasures such as farms and parks. I gave back by volunteering as a story-reader and later at the circulation desk. I now spend my semi-retirement working part-time in that same, small town library, which now offers more of the same great programs, and has expanded to provide free internet service, with 11 computers available for public use, and circulating 5 Kindles for people to use. Fifty years after opening its doors, I still love my library!

  3. carol weston on April 18, 2013 at 7:44 am

    My local library allows me to see and here about things that I would never find otherwise. Books, movies,music, book clubs and other groups are all available to me, plus opportunities for volunteering. For me, the library is the center of the community.

  4. Mary Garrett on April 18, 2013 at 8:00 am

    The library is my happy, welcoming place. I can instantly slough off troubles by walking through those doors, to be greeted by my most generous friends — who share! Besides the sharing of books and other resources (my students were so thrilled to learn that CDs and DVDs could be “rented” for FREE), they share ideas, recommendations, suggestions, and encouragement.
    When we were children, my brothers, sister and I would walk to the library (air-conditioned when that was a rare thing) and walk back home with armloads of books. Afternoons reading under (or in) the trees in the backyard — heaven!

  5. Nicolle Lamerichs on April 18, 2013 at 8:01 am

    A library is a home; a place to get back to that is rife with memories and inspiration. It brings together the stories of the world and explores them. These stories are the lived experiences and life stories of people as they felt them, envisioned them, sweat over them and endured them. Whether they are fictional, non-fictional or visual is beside the point. They are crafted by the authors who painstakingly wanted – no, needed -to express themselves and share their thoughts of what living means.

    A library can be public property but also a private collection. I, for one, cherish all the books that I own until I fall out of love with them. Then they may need to leave to someone who will offer them a better home. My library is small and humble but it’s a personal collection of books that make a statement of who I am, what I adore, what stories I identify with. A shelf for the detective stories, another one for the postmodern novels. When I’m sad, I can trace their backs with my fingers. Each time when I reread a book the story will be fundamentally different because I have changed. We meet on the shared common ground of what I love and like but I change. The books reveal new meanings all the time.

    At my work, the library has a different meaning. I am finishing my PhD thesis and the library has become a space to avoid. It’s not personal but it’s a space shared especially with students. Teachers go in and out but they are never there too long. It’s very crowded and loud as students eat, drop their jacket or type on their laptops. The library makes me feel uneasy. I do not belong there as I’m in a liminal position between student and doctor. It’s a modern building that makes me feel uncomfortable and insecure, filled with the sounds of modernity – a large office really. Today I went in to pay a small fee because I returned a book too late and left again. Between the coffee to go and the muffins, students have chats. I wish that this library could be more personal but it hardly gives me time to think. From my office, I see your tweet appear and feel like sharing this story.

  6. Terry Lamberth Malcheski on April 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Twice I have suffered mind binding losses. My thoughts would not quiet, my body would not relax. Books gave me hours of relief. Twenty years ago a library in Minnesota supplied Lauraine Snelling’s Red River of the North series. I read them all. This year a wonderful Carnegie library in a small Indiana town has given me quiet hours with Laurie King’s Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell series. I am on my fifth book. Libraries are a precious gift; free and my local one within walking distance. Places of discovery. My personal piece of recovery. Peace for a few hours a day. A library is a friend.

  7. Holly English-Payne on April 18, 2013 at 10:34 am

    As a child, my love of horses brought me first to our little elementary school library and then to our town library. I read every book I could on horses at a time when many of the books for horse lovers were well-written books from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, like Hobby Horse Hill, Ranch By the Sea and series by Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley and C. W. Andersen. I loved my librarians, who expanded my interests turned a horse-crazy child into a person who reads widely and continuously.

    Of course, when I had my first child, I couldn’t wait to take her the library to get her library card, an accessory I felt was far more important than the latest baby stroller or cute outfit. I arrived at The Bryant Library with my nine-month-old daughter, walked up to the Children’s Collection circulation desk and asked to sign her up for a card of her own. The librarian gently explained that children had to be old enough to sign their names to be given cards. Seeing my disappointment, she took me on a tour, pointing out books that would become my daughter’s favorites. The librarian always took time to guide us both. My daughter spent much of her childhood in that library and often tried to take the library home with her, asking to take out a dozen or more books at a time. Reading together was our cherished daily activity and she would stack books like building blocks or set up libraries for her dolls and read to them. Little did we know until she was in kindergarten that she had memorized every single book and she had a learning disability. Her struggle to read was long and filled with the painful humiliation of being a Special Ed kid. But she loved the books that still came home from the library, whether read aloud by me or by the books on tape the librarians found for her. The books on tape allowed her to race ahead to more and more mature books, to keep her book love alive while she struggled in school with the simplistic lessons to finally decode reading. I read to her aloud longer than most mothers and I had the pleasure of reading the first four Harry Potter books aloud to her as they were published. And she and I found authors we loved, having our own reading club, as she listened to the tapes and I read the old fashioned way. Finally her reading caught up with her intellect and interests and her reading expanded and matured. She was a great student and excelled in high school.

    On arriving at college, she sought out the perfect on-campus job – working in the college library. When she went to inquire about being interviewed, she spoke to the Head Librarian. They began to chat about her love of books and libraries. My daughter told the story of how her mother brought her to the library at nine months old to sign up for her own library card. The college librarian laughed and said there was no need for an interview, “come start training on Monday.” My daughter spent four happy college years feeling right at home at the circulation desk and in the stacks. For both of us, our library cards and the wonderful librarians keep our lives filled with books.

  8. Deb Parker on April 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    My favorite childhood memory is of Miss Kate always having my next favorite book ready every week when I arrived at the library. It could be about killer whales or Helen Keller whom I idolize to this day because of those books!
    I now work in a library and take great pleasure in guiding people to their next favorite book!
    Thanks to my family and Miss Kate for instilling the love of reading.

  9. LJ Prafke on April 18, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Remembering the fear of looking up, as a child standing on my toes the stretch of the look upwards following the pattern of oak librarian desk, fear of the librarian! The fee for the late library book deterred further use when the mother , a young widow , with five little children could not afford fees, no library book could be checked out.
    Earning money before the age of eight, the independence to buy candy, ride bikes to the library along court street, crossing washington avenue , a trip into the imagination. While even today, years later, adult friends have located my childish handwriting on library cards, inserted into the back of books seldom read for years!
    Does no one read Les Miserable? Rain Tree County? and others which I no longer remember. My favorite library: Harlan Hatcher at the University of Michigan or Ludington Public Library, Ludington on court street.

  10. Gail Froyen on April 18, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Now Pupsi was a funny looking dog. Perhaps you can see him in your mind if you close your eyes. His father was a Scottie and his mother a daschund or perhaps it was the other way around. So he was black, short legged, long of body, perky ears, a curled up tail, smooth hair and a square face. Oh, yes, Pupsi was a funny looking dog.

    While my mom was not a reader in the sense of always having a book open or marked to read, she did love magazines and newspapers. However, she did understand the importance of reading in the life of a child and frequently walked me to the branch library near our home in Sioux City. I think it was about 6-8 blocks. She would also send me along when one of my sisters was going that way. Behind the library was a city park with some swings and other play equipment in it. Unlike libraries today, it had a front and rear entrance. I remember working hard to learn how to write my first name and my last name so that I could have my own library card. I was probably about 4 I had my very own library card. I was probably five when I was permitted to go to the library all by myself – rather with Pupsi. One afternoon I took off for the library and came home with books but without Pupsi. You see, I went in the front door, went downstairs to the children’s department, checked out and went out the back door to have a bit of a swing before going home. Pupsi patiently waited by the front door for me. The librarian called my mother and one of my sisters was sent to bring Pupsi back home.

  11. The Bold Flying Officer on April 19, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve always been a reader and as I grew up, the local libraries presented a dual opportunity: they were a source of knowledge to quench my growing thirst for aviation; they were also the source for my escapism – adventure novels from the classics to the current.
    Today, I can check facts via the internet … but not always. My own library, built up over 50 years has often come to my aid for obscure facts about aircraft and information … much to the surprise of my colleagues. It also produced “rattling good yarns” I was able to pass on to my son as he negotiated his teens and twenties. His genre is SF but he came to The Old Man for Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rider Haggard and the exploits of another Conan Doyle character – Professor Challenger.
    I’ve always been jealous of the library created for Professor Henry Higgins in the film (movie) of My Fair Lady … t’will never happen now but a chap can dream can’t he?


Leave a Comment