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A Love Affair with the Library

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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 . . .

prehistoric-googling

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.

White JadeThis 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.

Not so.

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.

5 Comments
  1. Tuesday, March 26, 2013 10:32 am

    Thank you for loving your library! :) I discovered Phyllis Whitney romances through my library – and I still re-read them from time to time! My favorite was “The Golden Unicorn,” with a VERY 70’s cover – and I still have a copy that I rescued from a book sale!

  2. Lori Benton permalink
    Tuesday, March 26, 2013 11:10 am

    Oh gosh, where to start? I’ll start with MY favorite Sunfire romance, the book that turned history from dull and dry to living and breathing for me as a young teen: Jessica, by Mary Francis Shura. And we most certainly think alike, Kaye, because I tracked down an old old copy on line and now have it on my shelf where it ought to have stayed all these years. But as a kid I didn’t buy books. I got stacks of them from the school library, public library, and the book mobile that came through my neighborhood. I remember when a branch of our county public library was finally built in my hometown, Clinton, MD. What a glorious day. I loved that place. As I love my current public library system (that’s already ordered a copy of my debut novel that doesn’t release until August. Bless them!).

  3. Tuesday, March 26, 2013 9:16 pm

    Hi Kaye!
    My fav author I discovered as a child at the library (we still had the card system as well) was the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. :) Read that whole series at least eight times over. :)

    Before I became a Christian I discovered Jude Deveraux and LaVyrle Spencer, after I became a Christian I discovered the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson. :)

    Due to moving all over Australia I think I had at one time about six different library cards–all well used! When I was about 12 I decided to keep track of how many books I had read one year. I brought a cheap address book (you know, the kind with the tabs down the side) and filled in the books I read under their titles. I gave up after a few weeks because I borrowed too many to keep track of. I was homeschooled until grade 10, and in grade 9 (I was 15) I would get all my schoolwork done early and then spend the afternoon at the library helping out, shelving books, rewinding tapes, covering books etc. I loved it and it provided some valuable experience for when I began (but never finished) a library degree later on. When I was 15 I read forty (yes, forty!) books a week. Mostly Mills and Boon, with the occasional foray into bigger books.

    I love libraries. We have a mobile library that comes to town on Wednesday’s. It’s a truck (18 wheeler) that has cool pop out sides and lots of books. I like suggesting Christian authors to them. :)

    Keep up the great posts. I’m really enjoying them!
    All the best as you write for His glory, Lucy

  4. Joanna permalink
    Monday, April 1, 2013 3:46 pm

    As a child, thanks to the public library in our small town I blasted through the entire (original) Nancy Drew series (by Carloyn Keene). At lunch time in junior high I even walked the four blocks to my idea of heaven and I ate my sack lunch – ever so quietly, of course – while devouring whatever book had caught my fancy that week. During the summer the sheet we were given to record our reading was usually filled by the end of June, so I always asked for at least two. As for today’s computerized catalogues, their only advantage over “prehistoric Google” is the ability to tell you if a book is checked in. Other than that, I still prefer the old alphabetized card method. I found the titles of many books I didn’t even know I wanted while flipping through those cards!

  5. JamaGenie permalink
    Monday, April 1, 2013 4:11 pm

    I love poking around in used book stores, but the selection is limited to titles the owner considered worthy of space on a store’s shelves. So when I’m looking for a specific title that may or may not be still be in print, instead of wasting gas going from store to store with fingers crossed that one will have it, I go to Amazon. It’s also a great place to acquire the DVDs of favorite movies that originally came out on VHS. The trick is to read the seller’s description of the condition of an item verrrrry carefully before hitting “Add to cart”. Same for used books. I happen to prefer hardbacks, mainly because they’re usually priced far less than the paperback edition. But they must have a dust jacket OR be a “former library copy” (meaning the DJ will be encased in Mylar with “appropriate stickers and labels”, which aren’t had to remove if you’re careful.)

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