The Library

I recently recommitted to staying up-to-date with the changing tech we use everyday. (Except for iTunes.) As I’ve said before, I want to remain current. There is a place that the fast pace of tech changes hasn’t made obsolete (a la public phones and supermarket cashiers). It’s the library. Fortunately for all of us, the U.S. public library system has kept up with change and has evolved to meet today’s needs. We can install library apps on our phones.  We can check online to see if a book is available at a local branch and hold it until we get there. We can borrow an e-book and download it to our e-reader without leaving home. Anyone can use the public desktops at any branch (albeit on unsecured networks). And we can check out hard copy books by using the self-service scanners. (These require a staff member nearby to help the tech challenged folks who still can’t quite get the hang of it, just like in the supermarket.) Yup, the library has kept up and it makes me happy because it’s been my solace for a long time.

Alaaeddin H/FreeImages

I remember the first time I went to a library.  I didn’t imagine the doors that would open once I reached the one leading to the front of the little branch in Medford Massachusetts. My mother dropped my sister and I off there on a Saturday morning in one of her attempts to find something “enriching” for us to do. She had papers to grade, so she needed to leave us somewhere that, in her mind, was more useful than the neighborhood playground. She had little discretionary cash so that fact it was free was a good thing. That was back in the days when parents could leave their kids in a place with strangers and not have a) the strangers call the cops or b) the strangers abduct the kids.

I remember the way the children’s room looked and smelled. The walls were bright primary colors with posters attached encouraging us to READ. Isn’t it funny, to this day I love the smell of books, the paper together with the ink. The first time I caught the scent it was better than that of the lilacs next to my house. My love of the library goes back to that day. I spent hours with my head inside books, close enough to read and inhale them.

I discovered a place that was more comfortable  than my home. My mother was a single parent who worked long hours so home was sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful. It was comfortable and comforting at the library. I was able to walk alone and undisturbed up and down the stacks, taking out any book that caught my fancy. I’d look at it, put it back or tuck it under my arm for later. I wonder what the adults thought who saw me, the little black girl in blue cat-eyed glasses talking to herself as she marched through the rows. I loved dropping my choices onto the little tables and chairs set out to enhance the pleasure of reading. And I appreciated the QUIET. It was unbelievable to me that everyone, even adults, had to shut up so everyone else could read.

I went to the library often after that first visit. As I still do now, back then I’d choose a secluded corner near the back, close to a window if possible. I sat at those little tables reading the variety of styles I’d delighted in trying. My interests ranged from juvenile biographies of Louis Armstrong and Sojourner Truth to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Although Charlie’s life was as mysterious to me as the factory.)  One of my favorites was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I loved books in which kids were stretching boundaries. My mother made sure we had books at home but I had to share with my younger sister. Those titles skewed younger. At the library I  stretched my own literary boundaries which made me feel more mature.

The library was the most civilized place my nine-year-old self ever experienced, and the library is still one of my favorite places. I wrote a blog post about using it as my writing office but I also still roam the aisles for comfort. Public libraries are wonderful resources for us and for many reasons. I hope we don’t decide we’re so advanced as to lose them.


So Far, So Much Better

I often find that if I concentrate on an issue or concern hard enough, I’m offered clarity from the cosmos in very concrete ways. I’m going to a contemplative prayer session later and the daily meditation that I read online from a completely difference source, today was about…contemplative prayer. Have I mentioned that my spiritual and religious life tends toward the mystical? I haven’t?  Well, I’ll be talking about that in some future posts.

Anyway, today I was also reading a post by writer E.P. Carlin ( titled “Going Pro in 2013”. In it “Ed” discussed discipline, writing and pursuing his “writing resolutions” in 2013. It’s as if he read my mind! For the last four days I’ve been thinking about the very same thing and have come up with a very similar plan. Talk about validation!

I started a short story over a year ago. I think it’s a good story idea but I haven’t worked on it much. I’ve spent most of the time I’ve devoted to writing on this blog.  Like E.L. (Ed), I’ve decided that I have more time for writing than I’ve been spending on it primarily because I haven’t been as disciplined about it as I could be. So, I’ve decided I’m going to finish the story this year and I’ve got a plan on how to do it. In his post Ed said, “I may not have a job to go to at the moment, but for now, I’m making writing my full-time job…”.

My new writing “office” is the library. My home is fine for blog posts but I’m very serious about writing the story within strict standards in terms of construction so I need to concentrate without distraction. I’ve always loved public libraries for working. I love the smell of the books, the relative quiet, the cubbyhole workspaces and the activity. I love being with the readers, writers, sleepers, gazers and little kids. (The activity doesn’t distract me because I can observe without being involved.) Just like Ed I think it’s important for me to “keep a regular work schedule” and come to my office weekly to write.  And I joined a Meet-up for writers where members come together once a week to read and review each other’s work. That should help me with discipline as well.

I’ve also set measurable goals, which is another one of Ed’s suggestions. Along with the short story, I hope to post more to this blog. I’ve done well increasing the number of posts so far. My last goal was to post at least every month. I achieved that in 2012 and then some. I think with more discipline I can take on the “one post a week” challenge. Consider this week one. Thanks Ed and thanks Cosmos!

How’s your writing going? How disciplined are you? How do you feel about the library? Do you use it as a place to write, read or something else?