Culture Family Life

A love letter to libraries

I know that I am not alone when I say that we, as humans, find a lot of solace in libraries. They are temples of knowledge, housing collections of stories and dreams alike on their shelves. Libraries are as much a part of our culture as anything else. People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries. In a way, they hold the key to all of our stories,

I love libraries, and I am terrified to see their eventual demise, especially as our world becomes almost entirely digital. They are gems from the past that have maintained vitality no matter the circumstances or happening outside of their walls. Not to mention they are the cornerstones of entire communities, maybe even countries, granting light and stability to people when nothing, or no one, else seemed able to. They offer more than just books; they offer entry into a space that seems more like a sanctuary run by people grounded in compassion, commitment, creativity, and resilience.

People have relied on these spaces for warmth, insight, and marvel for centuries.

I used to go to the library near my grandparents’ house every other Friday. For the most part, my mom took my brothers and me there to get a new book for school or to see what DVDs we could bring home to watch that evening. But I remember roaming around, starstruck, in between the tall shelves, wondering about the people who wrote each and every single one of those books and how long it might have taken to get them all here.

Most weeks, my mother let me get two books instead of one. I could spend hours there if it was permitted. I always liked watching my mom pick her books for the week, too. She seemed so sophisticated and gentle while scanning the shelves, yet she never knew exactly what she was looking for. If it was winter, afterward we would all pile back into the car with our hardcover books and grab a slice of pizza. If it was summer, we would walk to the Italian Ice shop down the street for some cream ice – those were the best days. 

I fear that libraries have been taken for granted, even in my own life, and am always spellbound to find them chock full of unexpected people, doing unexpected things, with unexpected passions. There is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling, the pure excitement in my stomach, that erupts every time I am searching in a library for the perfect tale to dig into. A trip to the library seems, to me, to be enchanted. I become whimsical, enveloped by the completeness and simplicity of the entire journey.

Even the smell of a library is impossible to replicate because of its specificity and poignance. I am reminded of sandalwood, dusk, and a particular, antiquated, dampness. Its familiarity is beyond comforting. The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination. 

I feel at home while pattering around and tracing my fingers between the shelves of books. I fall in love while blowing the dust off of the covers, revealing bright colors and exquisite lines. I spend hours crinkling through the aged, already yellowing, pages of novels wondering which I will pick this time. It is never an easy decision, and I always leave with dozens underneath my arms wondering if the others will still be there when I return the next week. But, that’s the beauty of libraries, isn’t it? Every visit is entirely different from the last and there is no telling what you might stumble upon. Yet each visit is also starkly familiar. 

The air itself seems to be saturated in possibility and imagination.

Books have changed so much of my life, with plotlines, characters, and lessons that have been woven into nearly everything I do – that is every decision, every consideration, and everything that I have grown to appreciate or even pay a little bit more attention to. Books are there to remind me of what’s important, and when I’m not so sure, they’re there for me to lean on. Without libraries, though, I might have never been allowed membership into such a world of splendor. 

Books Pop Culture

I’ll take reading over binge-watching any day, and I don’t feel bad about it

Television used to be my thing when I was a kid, don’t get me wrong.  I saw movies with my friends pretty often in high school, too.  But books always played a huge role in my life.  My parents instilled a love of and appreciation for reading at an early age, so I spent a good amount of time being a bookworm before I got to college.

In the last few years, I’ve largely ignored the Netflix binge-watching craze – not that there’s anything wrong with that! – and continued to stick with my books.  I occasionally start a series or watch a new show with a friend, but I often have trouble sticking with it because I get busy, sidetracked, or bored.

I’ve learned that movies and TV shows just really aren’t my thing.  At the end of the day, I love the intimacy books provide and the opportunity to create a world in my head as I interpret it from the text.

I am notorious among my friends for blankly staring at them when they quote a prominent character from a well-known show.  When people ask me, “Have you seen …?” my answer is, ninety percent of the time, “No, what’s it about?”

The great thing about being friends with me is that you never have to worry about spoiler alerts, because surprise, I’m probably never going to watch it anyway. Go ahead and talk about all the wild plot twists in Game of Thrones all you want.

I’ve always found books and reading to be an escape.  A good book haunts you; it never leaves you.  A good book draws you in and makes you forget where you are and what time and space you’re living in.  A good book brings out empathy, anger, sadness, and love.

I’ve seen great movies and TV shows, but I’ve never seen one that gives me such an intimate journey with the characters as a book does.  From Toni Morrison’s Beloved to Nella Larsen’s Passing to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I’ve found myself experiencing the characters and their burdens, hopes, and lives in a way I can’t grasp from a television show.  Sandra Cisneros has me praying Cleofilas will find a way out of her abusive situation in Woman Hollering Creek and I’m pissed and laughing right along with Junior in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Words on a page are somehow different to me than words coming from a mouth on a screen.

Books also allow me the creativity to imagine the world the characters live in. It’s a quality I take immense pleasure in.  In movies and TV shows, the setting has been interpreted and designed by someone else.

But with books, I get to use the descriptions to create my own universe and my own understanding of the characters and their surroundings.  Maybe the protagonist is a short woman with choppy brown hair and grey eyes and decorates her whole house in the color red.  The beauty is that every person who reads her description will interpret her and her house differently.  We will all have a different image of her body, her hair, her clothes, her home, her decorations, and her life.

To all the movie-lovers, Netflix and Hulu binge-watchers, and those deeply intrigued with film, do your thing!

Maybe one day I will have the time and the attention span to get into and explore your art.  For now though, my home is with books.

When I want to disappear, I read.  When I’m feeling down or distressed, I read.   When I want to educate myself on a pressing social issue, I read.  When I want to find inspiration from powerful women, I read.

As long as I am feeling any type of emotion, whether it be internal conflict or elation, I’ll be reading.