Thursday, September 30, 2010


Libraries and me!

I stopped into my local branch of the Ottawa Public Library last night to pick up some books I'd reserved - research for my novel. And, being a recent convert to opera, I've been borrowing one opera DVD a had to get my next fix. It's going to take me a long time to work through them but I think my library is up to the challenge.

What amazed me, and most pleasantly, was how crowded the library seemed on a Thursday evening. The parking lot was full, for starters, so I had to park in back (it was raining). And, there seemed to be people standing in front of all the shelves I went to, all the computers were in use, and everywhere I looked, people of all ages.

This is wonderful news for writers! Sure, a lot were kids doing homework, but they're in the library, researching and reading...right?

My relationship with libraries goes back many, many years. My first library experience was the wonderful & typical Carnegie building in my hometown. It was right out of a book and a place of awe to someone so young. It still stands but has had many name changes over the years.

When I was a high school lass, just a few years ago, I had a part-time job as a 'page' in the New Westminster Public Library. I used to love Friday night shifts because I was usually assigned to the reference department and it was never busy at that time, so I could sit and read the New York Times. My Saturday shifts kept me hopping though. And, we didn't have branches, even though the city was large enough to support them. I thoroughly enjoyed the job, shelving the books, helping process the new acquisitions for circulation, working at the circulation desk (no automated processes in those days), and when the librarian on duty was busy, helping a patron or two.

As a bookseller, I looked on libraries as partners in selling. Many readers cannot afford to buy their own copies of a new title, if they're unsure of enjoying the read. But, they can borrow the book and, if it's a hit, go on to buy subsequent books in the series. Many libraries also host book clubs and are happy to invite authors to participate in meetings.

We all want the same thing -- readers reading our books. So, back to last night. I'd bet some of them were sitting in those comfy chairs reading a mystery. Or checking a mystery title out.

Let's hear it for libraries, librarians, and even pages (if that's what they're still called). And yes, let's get a newer, state-of-the-art (books) main branch built in this city.

What's happening with your local library?

Linda Wiken/Erika Chase


  1. I remember my home town library. A dark place with tall brown shelves full of wonderful books. Every Friday night we'd go there so I could get some books to read for the week. The librarian, a stern woman with brillo pad grey hair, big glasses and a floral print dress, directed me to a corner where I would find suitable books for my age. Pretty soon I had read all those. One Friday night I wandered around the corner to a bunch of bigger books with glossy paper covers. They looked fabulous. The librarian caught me and ordered me back to the suitable section, telling me I was not allowed to read those books. I still remember how embarrassed I was, and mystified, because I knew I had the reading skills to read the pretty books.

  2. I think I remember the brillo pad lady getting her comuppance in one of your stories, Vicki.

    I love the Elgin Branch of the Rideau Lakes Library. They've done a great job of making the small space attractive, accessible and fun for all ages. No whispering or skulking around in here. It's the town square and meeting place for many. Their theory is that if you're reading or working on one of their computers, it's easier to tune out normal voices than it is to ignore the sotto voce and tiptoing behaviour that some people adopt the moment they go through the doors of a library.

  3. The tragedy of my childhood was when the Sydney library burned to the ground (took the court house with it, but I didn't care about that). I have always loved libraries - as a reader, as a librarian, and as an author. I loved sitting on those shelves and love being checked out even more!


  4. my earliest memories of the Peter White Public Library in Marquette, Michigan, was when at the age of 11 or so i'd completely exhausted the holdings of the children's library, in the basement, and was granted privileges to the upstairs world of grownup books - i've always been thankful to that childrens' librarian (no brillo pads here) who recognized my love of books and said Open Sesame

  5. I can't imagine anyone being a writer without being a reader. In fact, one day I'll post the cartoon that goes along with that sentiment. Nor can I imagine a community without a library. Thanks for all your comments (& memories)!

  6. My hometown used to have a Carnegie Library, a lovely baroque building now sadly demolished. It had wonderful nooks & crannies where you could hide out with a stack of books, and like David, I had an understanding librarian who let me loose in the adult stacks early. My current "local" is closed for renovations, but luckily one almost as close re-opened recently. I'm on the library web-site daily, and it's rare that I'm not waiting for a hold to arrive for pickup. I don't spend all that much time in libraries now, with the wonderful on-line catalogue system available here in Ottawa. Still love them, though, one of the best uses of my tax dollar.

  7. alas . . . i'm complicit in not supporting my library by going there for any other reason than to occasionally check out audio CD books for when i travel . . . part of this is that i do 80% minimum of my research on the Internet, part is that when i want a new book by a favorite author, or a book that's gotten wonderful reviews, i just buy it - this is a long-ranging debate i have with a close reader friend who gets almost all her books by lurking on line to "hold" a library book (no, not you erikathegreen)

  8. My best library experience was being in the stacks of the University of New Brunswick library when a donated private collection was about to be shelved but was intact. Many of the books were annotated or had relevant newspaper or magazine articles folded inside. The collection was eclectic and it fascinated me to see the variety of subjects that had interested the person.