A Love Affair with the Library
When I was a teenager, I loved the Sunfire romance novels. Those written by Willo Davis Roberts (especially Victoria and Caroline) were my all-time favorites. Which led me to . . .
I wanted to read more books by this author, and a couple of decades ago, the card catalog was the only way to discover what else she might have written. The only limitation was that it had to be something that our public library (and we’re talking the Thomas Branigan Memorial Library in Las Cruces, NM) actually owned.
That was when I discovered what would become my favorite YA novel of all time. White Jade, by WDR, is a YA gothic romance set in the late 1800s in northern California. Yes, you read that right. A gothic romance set in NoCal.
This was back in the day when library books actually had cards in them that recorded the library-card number of each person who checked the book out and when. And after a year or two, my number filled at least half the lines on that card. By the time I graduated from high school, I’d read that book twenty or thirty times since discovering it two years before.
And then I moved away. I went to college. I fell in love with other authors, other stories. I started reading more adult fiction (and being forced to read “literature” as an English major—thank goodness for Cliff’s Notes!). But I never forgot about White Jade. But no library in Baton Rouge, or later in Northern Virginia, had a copy of that book. Because I’d loved it so much, I assumed it must be an extremely well-known/popular book that I’d be able to find anywhere I looked.
I resigned myself to never being able to find it again.
Enter the Internet Age
In the early 2000s, after I was already a confirmed Amazon customer, they started allowing people to sell used/old books through their site. And there were other websites that focused solely on the sale of used books. (Don’t get me, as an author, started on the ethical/legal issues surrounding re-selling books. As a reader, I’ve made use of this more times than I care to admit, but I do try to limit it to out-of-print titles that can’t be acquired any other way.)
Once I discovered old/used books for sale on the internet, I decided, out of curiosity, to look up some old favorites. I filled out a few missing spots in my Sunfire Romance collection. And once I was thinking about those books, I decided to try to find that one book, my elusive unicorn, that I’d fallen in love with through the library so many years before.
Jackpot! I found a used (mediocre condition, as you can see in my photo of it above) paperback copy of the book on sale for $1.99. I didn’t care that the shipping cost was twice that much. I would have paid just about anything for that book. Besides, even if I’d been able to purchase it new when I first discovered it, the book would probably have been in about that same condition by this time.
Now I owned the book that had been the one that almost got away—the one which cemented my love and reverence for the institution of the public library. Every year when I pick up that book to read, it reminds me of those cozy hours spent in a chair hidden in the stacks perusing books and trying to decide which few I could take home this time.
If it hadn’t been for the PUBLIC LIBRARY . . .
If it hadn’t been for the public library, I never would have discovered all of the stories/authors I did throughout my life. I now make use more of the e-book lending program through the Nashville public library system (no pickups/returns, no late fees). I’m about to take a crate of DVDs and books-on-cassette and another of books to donate to the library due to my spring cleaning/organizing efforts. Whether they sell them all or put them into circulation doesn’t matter to me—in one way or the other, I feel like I’m giving a little something back to the institution that nurtured and fed my desire for a life beyond my own experience/existence.
What’s your favorite book/author you discovered at the LIBRARY? Tell us about your love affair with the basilica of books.