Gerry Boyle here, and I was just thinking about my formative years, when maybe I should have been writing stories, penning plays, scribbling poems, like kids are supposed to do if they want to be writers. But I wasn’t writing. I was reading, spending my childhood with my nose in a book. I had no choice. it was a family thing.
I grew up in Cranston, R.I., in a section of the city called Edgewood. Our street backed up to the grounds of the William Hall Library, an imposing edifice with heavy glass and brass doors and marble floors that sent footsteps echoing to the vaulted ceiling. It was cavernous and cool in the summer, warm in winter, always filled with that thick, palpable library hush.
My family went to the library every Saturday. We needed to get enough books to last the week, which meant shopping bags full. Stacks that were placed on the floor next to my father’s chair. Books for bedside tables and the porch and school reports and the beach. Books about wars and dynasties and novels set in places I’d only vaguely heard of. Paperback mysteries and big fat biographies. Books about horses (younger sisters), the wilderness (me), American history (my dad), and fictional lives (my mom). Books about things I’ve long forgotten. Books, books, and more books.
It’s a cliche but the library really was my window to the world. The known universe at your fingertips. A place entirely devoted to reading with people to help if you had a question, like a church for book worshippers—with book deacons who told the kids to shush. For us readers it was a temple, a book-lined sanctuary.
I’m no doubt preaching to the choir but maybe not. Just a few weeks ago one of my friends, a fellow who reads pretty much all the time, asked me this question: Do we even need libraries anymore? He buys books in shops, on Amazon. Any reference question can be answered by Google. Why drive to a building full of books?
Well, we know a library is more than that, especially now. A library is a community center for readers, a place to talk about books you’ve read, hear about books you should read. You can meet authors talk to friends about the authors you’ve just met, gather with like-minded readers. When you walk through the door, you know you’re in a place with kindred spirits, people who value the printed word, the beautifully illustrated children’s book, the audio book.
I’ve now replaced the Hall Library with the Albert Church Brown Library in China Village. My kids grew up there, in a room lined with children’s classics. Dahlov Ipcar. Robert McCloskey. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a village with a library.
For that reason I’ve got a few talks lined up at Maine libraries large and small in coming months. The schedule is at gerryboyle.com and on my Facebook author page. I almost always accept a library’s invitation to visit. It’s an author’s way of giving back and I know I’ll be in the company of a community of readers. What better place for a writer?
Sometimes when I’m an event, signing books, someone will say almost apologetically, “I’ve read your books but I get them at the library.”
I’m glad you do.