As both reader and author, one of the things I’ve missed most during this time of self-isolation is visiting the library.
From childhood until now, libraries have been one of my happy places—to learn, get book recommendations, find a sense of community and more.
Learning about the world
One of my favourite childhood memories is of going to the library, first with my mother and then, as I grew older, by myself.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, the books I checked out from that little neighbourhood library were my passport to new places, people, and ways of seeing the world (both real and imaginary) without ever leaving home.
That’s still true today and thanks to books I borrowed just before my current small-town library closed for lockdown, from my sofa I’ve visited New York City and coastal Washington state (in The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs), as well as France in the Second World War and a rural Irish village.
Book recommendations, reader connections and more
Libraries offer book recommendations too. One of the things I value about my local library is the “staff picks” section and books showcased at the circulation desk that relate to a special event or something book or author-related in the news.
Not only have those recommendations helped me discover new authors, they’ve also led to book chat with library staff and other patrons.
Libraries buy books (including mine) and seeing books I’ve written on library shelves helps me connect with new readers and is also a thrill that will never diminish.
Not least, libraries (and especially inter-library loan) help with research material for my writing work.
Libraries are often places that bring people together for things far beyond books and reading.
By hosting special events and offering a space for community groups to meet (welcoming knitters, quilters, jig saw puzzle enthusiasts and others), libraries are often vibrant community spaces.
During this time of lockdown, my library has continued its community outreach by offering virtual story times, author readings, social media updates and even boosting their WiFi signal so that those without home Internet can connect from the car park.
A new normal
Whilst the library has been closed, I’ve had to get my “fix” from borrowing e-books and following activities online.
In the past week, though, libraries here have re-opened for curbside pickup, something that would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.
After placing an online hold on a title, I had a call from the library advising me of my designated pickup time with instructions to drive into the car park, reverse into an allocated parking space, alert staff that I’d arrived and open the trunk (boot) of my car.
A librarian wearing a mask and gloves then placed the book (in a plastic carrier bag) in my car trunk.
Although I miss what libraries used to be, I’m very grateful for how they’re evolving in our pandemic world, in particular the work staff are doing behind the scenes to help patrons access books and other materials and maintain some semblance of “normal” life.
As for the masked and gloved librarian?
Although we couldn’t chat like we’d usually do, her friendly wave and the twinkle in her eyes meant as much as the book I’d requested—and reminded me that we’re all in this situation together and getting through it as best we can.