Monday, June 20, 2016

Books and the People Who Love Them

I have lots of reasons for loving physical books—the feel of the pages between my fingers, the variety of fonts, the smell of the paper and the glue in the binding, the way they look lined up on a shelf. I love all sorts of libraries—big and little.

On Saturday I went to the opening of the Maud/Olson Library in Gloucester, a huge effort undertaken by Ralph Maud to bring together all the works the poet Charles Olson was known to have owned, referred to, or read. The library operates under the auspices of the Gloucester Writers Center. For the moment, the books are organized alphabetically by title, so E.E. Cummings and Agatha Christie are half a shelf apart (perhaps the only time in public too). There are other wonderful juxtapositions but I mention the library this morning as I write because after several years of writing fiction I stood in a library packed with serious nonfiction, including many titles I had known and worked with. It was like coming home.

My library is similar to a garden. I add plants and weed out others. I trim and move and replace. We began years ago with pansies and now we have roses and the pansies are relegated to pots on the porch, where they thrive. I can’t say my library is a true rose garden, but both garden and library are works in progress.

My thoughts on books today are prompted in part by an appeal I came across for donations to
the Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy, a tiny town in Greenville, CA, with a tiny school and a library that hasn’t been able to loan books for a few years, and had no money to buy any new ones either. They’re hoping to change that. I mention this because as I read through the article I got more and more excited about finding someone who wanted books.

Books seem to have become both expensive and disposable, turning into a mass of clutter the minute you carry them out of the store. I donate to the library book sale every year, and usually buy as many as I donate. But the library has trouble recycling the books to other sellers at the end of their sale. We have a huge second-hand bookstore in our area, but most online sellers are picky about what they will take. So when I saw the appeal for books (and yes, suitable for a school but not textbooks) I was excited, delighted, and went searching for titles to send. Someone out there wants (yes, WANTS) books.

The person making the request asked only for one book from anyone reading the piece, but I’m sending at least four and maybe more. I’m so happy to send them where they’ll be valued.

To read more, go here. The article is about two-thirds down in the list. And as I turn my attention to photographs to illustrate this piece, I think about how easy it is to make me happy (or anyone else who loves books).

The two books of my own I'm sending are mystery novels that I think will be appropriate for high-school students because my friends' children read them. I'm sending Last Call for Justice and Come About for Murder. In addition, I'm sending two memoirs by young women and some nonfiction about the West.


  1. Susan,

    As you point out, one excellent way to support libraries is by donating books for the yearly book sale and then buying some as well. I also do that. As to school libraries, some districts are generous with funding and others are not. As a school librarian, I worked in both types.

  2. I donate books whenever I can, but usually in my area. The plea from this librarian really touched me. It's hard to be in a tiny town with a minuscule budget. Thanks for commenting.

  3. I think it's a shame that some (many) libraries are not getting the needed funding. As writers, it's to our advantage to make sure we nurture future readers and libraries are a great way to do so. I don't feel my books are appropriate for a high school library, but I think the call for donations is great.

  4. Every library I deal with or visit talks about how busy they are, so it makes no sense that libraries don't get more funding. Thanks for adding to the discussion, Maris.