My Summer Affair with the Library

I’m listening to Sissy Spacek narrate To Kill A Mockingbird.  If you haven’t read it since high school, grab a copy and start again tonight. The languorous southern summer days mix with a searing poignancy; a history of a particular moment in time unfolds in a novel so riveting, so achingly universal, it leaves me a bit breathless.

I thought I knew the book but I’m discovering it all over again. And what a discovery. Audio books have become a fixture in my life of late—and not because these 50-year-old eyes are giving out.  After years of reading to my children, I enjoy being read to.  Books on CD (I know, even that sounds like quaint technology these days) have nearly doubled my intake of the “printed” word.  I no longer gripe in traffic jams or fret about an extra trip to the grocery store. I leave behind all manner of chaos in the house, close my driver’s door and pick up where I left off. I am, literally, transported. I keep a book log and since I began a couple years ago, I’ve listened to dozens upon dozens of books, plays, essays and lectures.

The local library is my go-to source and has become an intimate friend again. I’m promiscuous – I traipse about our county diving into the stacks of a half dozen local branches. I know the drill in each one and I’m like a hound dog on the trail of his prey when I’m searching for a particular title. I’m no nonsense; I don’t tend to linger. But if I did and when I do, it’s nothing short of a revelation. I am surprised and delighted by the sheer number and variety of folks who are using the library at all hours of the day–moms sprawl in the children’s section with their pre-schoolers; an older man naps in a comfortable chair; all ages are working at computers–every station filled; several are engaged in conversation with the reference librarian; one or two intriguing types are writing what I take to be the next great American novel; daily newspapers are perused; there are tables for tots, tables reserved for teens (from 3-6 p.m.–how nice is that?); there are community bulletin boards chock-a-block with announcements – a book club, a volunteer organization, a book sale next Saturday.

The brick and mortar library is alive and well in the 21st century, a vital community resource in a country where community can be hard to come by. At one local branch, I look up at Andrew Carnegie’s name carved in stone above the entrance to a particularly musty but endearing interior and I think, the man had it right. Libraries are democracy in action.

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Leslie Hunter

Leslie Hunter is the mother of three grown up (almost) children, the wife of a filmmaker, a longtime school trustee, a long ago lawyer, a master swimmer and a longtime resident of Marin County, CA. She enjoys writing letters (the old fashioned kind) and sends her children literary quotes. She is passionate about all things political thinks women should run the world. These days, she's devoting a lot of time to deciding what she wants to be when she grows up. That includes starting -- and stopping -- blogs. 

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