Monday, August 4, 2014

Secret Love Letters to Librarians

It pubs September 2nd.
Dear Librarians, Media Specialists, Those Tenders of the Book Aviaries,

So I think I've inadvertently written you some love letters. THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE is the debut novel of Gregory Sherl -- my participation in creating and writing the novel is noted in an author's note at the end of the book (where I actually like being hidden, turns out).

But here's how the love letters to you happened ... Having spent a lot of time in libraries, it was probably just a matter of time before one of my main characters was a librarian. Evelyn in THE FUTURE FOR CURIOUS PEOPLE is that character, at long last. Some of the stories in the novel are based on bits of true tales from the trenches -- my very dear friend was a librarian at a large city library for many years. So, yes, the librarian who accidentally aided and abetted a criminal, the patron who dyed her hair in the third-floor bathroom... based loosely on things that happened... But mainly I got to riff on libraries themselves... and I went off -- in a co-authorly way with Greg -- so much so that there are parts that really read like love letters complete with admiration and adoration for the work you do, for libraries, for all of you...

A few (confessional) excerpts:

"Libraries are my homeland...  As a kid, I went to the library because, in books, there were people really living lives and, unlike my parents, they talked to me about important things. My own house was austere, hushed, and dusty like a library, but once you understand that each book on the shelf has a heartbeat then you’ll want to stay. I don’t tend dead things – paper, ink, glue bindings. I tend books the way someone in an aviary tends birds."

"If some books don’t come back? Well, some books are meant to live in the wilds. There’s not much you can do about that."

"...nowadays, libraries are in many ways the last public space. Robert Frost defined home as 'the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.' Ditto public libraries. Our doors are open – to everyone. In the summer, kids are dropped off here to spend the entire day. Some really little ones manage a city bus route. They don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s sometimes overwhelmingly sad, and yet they’re here. They aren’t on the streets.
"Just this morning, I got to help an old woman trying to find a book that she’d read in her childhood. She didn’t remember the title or the author, but knew it was about a panda. When I showed her the cover on my screen, she said, “Yes, yes, that’s it! My father read it to me once and cried at the end. It was the only time I’d ever seen him cry.” Books can break a man open, even ones about a panda, maybe especially so.

"I love the smell of books, the dust motes spiraling in sun. I love shelves and order. I love the carts and metal stools on wheels. I love the quiet carrels and the study rooms. I love the strobing of copy machines, the video and audio bins. I love the Saturday morning read alouds for kids and how they try to hush when they come in; all these books can still demand a bit of awe. I love the teen reading groups, clutching books to their chests, little shields protecting them from the world’s assaults – those are my people. I even love the homeless shuffling in – it’s warm here with running water, safe -- and the couples who make out in the stacks. I don’t blame them: books are sexy, after all."

With love, admiration, fortitude, respect, perhaps some kiss-uppery, and occasional bookish gluttony,  

Julianna Baggott