Tag Archives: Libraries

On #Libraries, #Librarians, feelings of connection, and #books

Apparently, it’s National Library Week. This is one celebration I can get behind and actually enjoy. Enjoy writing about; enjoy celebrating.

I’ve mentioned many times before in this blog that I — for all intents and purposes — grew up in my local library. I was what was called ( during my youth) a latchkey kid, meaning, after school, I was on my own, home alone, because both the adults in my life had full-time jobs that didn’t let out until 5 or 6 each night. School let out at 3, so that meant five afternoons a week I needed a babysitter until I got old enough to be left on my own for a few hours, which in my case was at the age of 7.

I’m remembering what my daughter was like at 7 and am horrified that my mother believed it was an appropriate age for independent responsibility, but that’s another blog topic entirely.

Anyway….

Every day after school I would be dismissed after the bell and then trek to my local library to stay until it was time to get on home.

I loved the library.

I loved the safety of it.

I  loved all the books.

I loved loved loved the Librarians.

I loved the quiet.

Like Belle in Beauty and the Beast, all I wanted to do was read. I wanted to be transported to other places, live lives that weren’t my own;  be loved and cherished like a princess and rule a kingdom with wisdom and grace. I could be anything I wanted to be and I could explore everything. It was in the library that I discovered my imagination and my joy of storytelling.

Once I was through the library doors each afternoon, after a 15 block walk along city streets from my school, I’d let out a sigh, safe in the knowledge that nothing bad could happen to me here. I was secure now, protected. Bad people didn’t come into the library, only good ones. People who wanted to be educated,  and who wanted to escape from their everyday, boring lives and live richer, happier, more exciting ones. The library wasn’t the place where the bullies who tormented me in school “hung out.” I was free from the cruel insults, tormenting taunts, and physical violence that had become my daily life at school.

The Librarians all knew me by name and were my first, actual, REAL teachers. I learned facts in school. The Librarians taught me about life. They’d recommend books for me to read and once I was through the kids’ section selection, they moved me onto what would now be called YA ( young adult) novels. I may have been 8 or 9 years old, but I was reading about the lives of pre-teens and teenagers, living in their shoes as they drifted through life, and getting a feel for what was to come my way once I was their age.

The Librarians talked to me about books, asked me my opinion on ones I’d read. They actually valued my thoughts. They showed me the strength there is in knowledge and the beauty there is in imagination. They fostered in me that desire to tell a tale, tell it well, and change a reader’s life. They taught me how to be entertained, and in so doing, how to entertain. They taught me how to gather knowledge, the beauty there is in research, and how to prioritize. To this day, my home library follows a basic Dewey Decimal system. To some, that may be a bit extreme. But to me, it is a real tribute to the librarians who helped form my mind and fed my soul.

In the library, we spoke in hushed tones and whispers. We used the original inside voices. In my house, the voices were more often raised than hushed, loud than peaceful, tormented than quiet.

In the library, I found myself…as a girl, a person, a student, and, ultimately, as a writer.

Every day I thank God for the women and men who worked and still work in local libraries. They are unsung heroes to countless children and adults. Where some may think that the previous statement is a tad theatrical, it isn’t to me. The Librarians I knew as a child were my heroes. They kept me safe, loved and cared about me, and opened a world for me I never knew existed.

Heroes, every last one of them.

So, help me celebrate National Library Week. Support your local libraries by donating old, in-good-condition books, attend book sales and fund drives and become a Friend of the Library.  Encourage your children and grandchildren to get Library cards and to use them! Often and with enthusiasm.

Finding your local library is just a Google search away!

 

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, Literary characters, New Hampshire, research, Strong Women

The peace found in a Library…

Author Holly Robinson  recently wrote a great blog piece about her love of public libraries. I, too, have had a life -long love affair with those wonderful buildings housing the billions of words and bits of writers’ imaginations and souls within their walls. Here’s why….

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As an only child raised in a family of elderly great aunts and grandmothers, I didn’t have an opportunity to play much with kids my age because, well, there weren’t any! It’s probably why I’m not such a great game player even at this age. While my peers were with one another enjoying a game of Mousetrap or Soul Survivor or any Milton-Bradley or Hasbro game you can remember, I was usually in the company of older people who didn’t want to play a board game, but who preferred to sit and drink and talk and fight with one another.

Yeah, I know: not a great childhood, but it was all I knew.

I was also a latchkey kid — a term I don’t think is used too widely these days. My parents both worked full time and from the age of 8 I no longer had an after school babysitter who’d watch me until my parents came home from work, usually around 7 each night. I was on my own from the time school let out at 3 until the evening, five days a week. Now, I could tell you that the temptations to be naughty and to veer toward the dark side and get into mischief were strong. But I had something that helped me fight those demons calling my name to act up and be bad: my local Library.

I would be dismissed every day from school and then walk the ten city blocks-alone-to the beautiful, brick faced, three story building overlooking New York harbor. First, I’d find  an empty table in the kid’s section and do my homework. That usually took about 10 minutes! Then, I’d explore the book racks. I was an expert at the Dewey decimal system categories by the age of 9 and to this day, still order my own books in my home library using the same clarification system.

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In that first year I read all the books in the kid’s section that were in my age group and most of the teen category as well. Nowadays this is called YA( for young adult), but back then they were all labeled as “Teen” reading. I learned all I needed to know about love, sex, hate, and teenage angst before the age of  1o. I devoured the complete works of Agatha Christie, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew. I consumed the books in the biography section, learning everything I could about women leaders like Eleanor Roosevelt and Amelia Earhart and Queen Victoria. Even back then I realized I could be whatever my imagination told me I could, despite being a girl.

You may have read that last sentence and said, WHAT??!! but remember, I was raised in the sixities when girl power was still in its infancy. It would be another 10 years before Gloria Steinem came along and preached female empowerment. And  Title IX hadn’t been established yet.

Anyway…

Since I was most comfortable with older folks and not my peers, I had no trouble connecting with the librarians on a personal level, and I can tell you truthfully and without hubris, they loved me. Knowing how much I adored reading,  and the categories I loved most, the librarians would routinely pull new arrivals for me to check out first. Loved that!  Who else can boast they were spoiled by librarians?

The library became my second home, and in some ways, it was my  refuge, a steady foundation against a home life that wasn’t exactly the American Dream. Within the walls of the library, I could get lost- safely- and go exploring. Again, back before there was Internet and Google, we did research the old-fashioned way: by combing through encyclopedias and trolling through microfiche. I think part of the problem I’m so tech-NO-savvy is because I still long for those little cellophane negative film strips covered with oodles of information that were sosososo much more easy to use than a computer. But that’s just me….

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As I matured, my reading material did as well. By the time I reached my teens, the librarians were helping me find my calling in life. They knew I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor, so they introduced me to medical books and manuals routinely reserved for the medical community. Before I started Nursing school and College I was already proficient in medico-terminology, policies, and procedures. One librarian in particular guessed I like to write – how I will never know – but she would often pull books for me about craft and editing. She was the one who introduced me to the Publisher’s Weekly news magazine ( which I believe is all digital now) and would save them when they arrived each week for me to view.

These lovely, educated, warm and maternal women became my mentors, my friends, my surrogates. Most of them have probably passed on by now, but the wonderful memories I have of how they treated me, how special they made me feel, and how much they taught me, will  be with me for the rest of my life. Maya Angelou said once,

“… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Can I just get an “AMEN” for that? It’s true.

There are as many pundits these days who state “Print is Dead” as there are those who  espouse that print books will always be popular, especially if we have places to house them-namely, libraries. To this day I support my local library. In fact, tomorrow is the first day of the bi-annual book fundraising sale, of which I attend every session. All the proceeds raised go toward the library’s operating budget, since the city has had to economize and cut funding every place it can.  There will never be a danger of the library closing its doors due to lack of funds while I have breath in my body!! That is fact and I know KNOW I am not alone in my thinking.

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Show the love to your local  libraries. Donate the books you have read and don’t want to keep. Support local authors ( very subtle hint, here!). Encourage your children and the kids you know to read. Reading is the single best gift you can give your child to help her/him explore their imaginations, develop critical thinking skills, and go into the world armed with the knowledge and expertise necessary to improve the world, their lives, and those of future generations.

I love libraries so much, I have a Pinterest board just for great libraries around the world. Check it out, here.

And when I’m not at my local library, you can find me here:

Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me// Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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Filed under Author, community advocacy, Contemporary Romance, Family Saga, Friends, Life challenges, Literary characters, research, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women

Promoting literacy

I read at an early age and so did my daughter. In truth, I think the best gift I ever gave her was the gift of being able to read.  Being carried away by a good story and getting lost in a fabulous book have provided me with innumerable hours of pleasure and escape. The ability to read, to lose oneself in a story, to imagine a world dictated by descriptions, is an amazing joy.

I discovered an absolutely appalling statistic today: the number of adults in the US who can’t read is estimated at 32,000,ooo. Over 70 % of inmates are illiterate and 19% of high school grads can’t read at a functional level.

This is in the United States of America! That number should be as close to zero as possible, but unfortunately, it isn’t.

I’m sure any sociologist or anthropologist worth their salt could tell you why this is so, but I don’t care about the reasons. I just want that number to be zero.

What kind of a society are we that accepts our people can’t read? What does it say about our educational system that allows 1 in 4 of its children to grow to maturity without the ability to read?  I will admit to being totally floored by these stats.  Perhaps it is because I live in a moderately affluent community where school is valued. Maybe its because of my color and race and the fact that I have access to good schools, good teachers, libraries, and book stores. It could be because I value reading so much, I naively assume everyone else does.

Again, the reasons seem irrelevant when you consider the facts.

This is my soapbox request for the day: If you’re reading this blog – congratulations, you can read! Now, pass that gift along. Read to your children, encourage them to read back to you, aloud. Take a kid to a library and show him the wonders to be found there. Get lost with a kid in a bookstore for hours. Make sure that reading is part of their core curricula in school. Give a child the gift of your favorite book when you were a kid, and then discuss it!

My wish for the future: 100% literacy in the greatest nation on earth. That would be us, kids, the United States of America.

Reading: it’s a good thing.

More statistics about illiteracy in America:

http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/

http://www.statisticbrain.com/number-of-american-adults-who-cant-read/

http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/community/statistics/

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Reading is fundamental and…everything else!

When my daughter was doing the college search several years ago, she was required to write short essays on topics of her choosing, many related to her current lifestyle and family life. My husband and I let her have freedom on this, knowing she was an excellent writer and had a stockpile of stories she could tell. We figured that one or two of them might mention us – after all, we were funding the school she’d eventually get into – and we were prepared to be slightly embarrassed or roll our eyes at how we were depicted from her 17 year old perspective.

To say we were floored when we read the first essay is a totally inadequate statement. We were blow away.

And in the best sense of the word.

The gist of the piece was on reading. She stated that she could never remember a time in her life where she wasn’t (a) surrounded by books, (b) reading books or being read to, and (c) when her parents didn’t have a book in their hands or handy. She wrote the first memories she could conjure were when I would read to her before bed, during the day, anytime she asked, really. She stated unequivocally that her love of reading, writing, the spoken and the written word fell directly from the exposure we afforded her. Since she was planning to major in English in college, this made cosmic sense to me.

From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I read aloud to my daughter. I’m sure people thought I was strange when they would see me, sitting on a park bench, or in a waiting room reading aloud to seemingly no one. But the truth is, she was neonatally conditioned to be a lover of books.

It’s easy to explain where I got my love of reading. I was a latch-key kid from the time I was in second grade. My mother worked full time and she couldn’t afford an after school baby sitter. The safest place for me to go right from school was the local library. And I did. Everyday from second grade until middle school, I spent, on average, 2-3 hours, five days a week for over 7 years. In middle school, when I didn’t really need watching over anymore but could stay home alone after school by myself, I still went to the library most days. I finished every book in the kid’s section and then preceded onto the teen section was I was only 8. Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Jane Austin, and a slew of other characters and authors were my friends, companions, family. I learned most of what I know about social skills and social norms from reading books like “I’m Okay, You’re Okay,” and the like.

Books were everything to me.

And as I got older, their friendship and love grew, as I did, maturing, into new authors, new genres, new escapes.

When I first got married, my husband was not a reader-for-pleasure. He could usually be found, sitting in his chair, devouring a medical journal. I fixed that pretty quickly. I found a book that actually appealed to the both of us and every night, when we got into bed, one of us would read a chapter aloud to the other until the book was completed. I can’t for the life of me tell you what that book was about now – it was a very loooooong time ago – but I do remember the feeling I got every time we started a new chapter.

And hubby felt the same way.

When the book was done, my husband was hooked on pleasure reading. That started his reading journey and now he is never without a book when we travel, at home, or even on long car rides. We now go to local book sales and library fundraisers, searching for new authors and genres. The medical journals still occupy some of his reading time, but not to the extent they did in the beginning of our marriage.

We both passed this love onto our daughter. She is never without something to read, and she is a purist: she likes the actual book, not the Kindle version. She will read on an e-reader, but she, like my hubby, prefers the paper and page.

I am an equal opportunity reader: any form, and time, any day.

It’s no wonder I love to write, since I love to read. Creating my own characters, settings, plots and situations, falls seamlessly from this love of books.

The next time you have to give a child – or even an adult – a birthday gift, thank you gift, or even just a little something to tell them you were thinking of them, consider a book as the present. You’ll never know how just the simple gift of words/plot/characters can change that person’s life forever.

Reading: it’s a good thing.

*** horrible self plug: if you’ve got a few moments, check out Harlequin’s SOYOUTHINKYOUCANWRITE 2014 contest. Here’s the link to my entry. Drop by and give me some love. Thanks. http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts-sytycw-2014/cooking-with-kandy/

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