Bruce Robert Coffin here, wishing you all a happy November. I hope that you came out of our latest doozy of a storm relatively unscathed. Mother Nature has a habit of reminding us just how good we have it.
Maybe it’s good that we occasionally get a taste of what life used to be like before everything became high-tech. How often do any of us really pause to think how different our lives would be without Edison’s most famous discovery? Think of the things we take for granted.
As a writer, one of the most obvious things we lose access to when the power goes out is our ability to charge every electronic gizmo we own, cell phones, iPads, Kindle readers. It’s funny how quick we are to embrace the latest gadgets that basically do the same things as items we already had. You want an example? How about books? I read one from cover to cover the other day and never once needed to recharge it.
Another thing that many of us take for granted are the libraries in our towns. During Maine’s latest power outage I took note of how many libraries, even those without power, that remained open and staffed. In small towns like Bar Harbor and Camden libraries are the epicenter for many local activities, after school programs, crafts, storytelling, guest authors, and more.
In Camden the library was even given a place of prominence, sitting at the top of Main Street next to the town common, within walking distance to the local shops and eateries, it even boasts views of Camden Harbor and Mount Battie. Coincidence, you say? I think not. I’d say the town elders might have known a thing or two about the importance of reading.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’ve featured the Camden Library so heavily in this blog post. The reason is that I was scheduled to appear at that very library on Halloween night. I had been staying in town at a local hotel and closely monitoring their powerless plight. In spite of their predicament the staff pressed on, opening during the day to allow people to borrow and return books, as well as providing a central meeting place for people to congregate. On Halloween Day the library staff donned costumes and handed out candy to children who stopped by. I had begun to plan a rescheduling contingency when I was contacted by one of the library staff members who informed me that the library had decided to hold the event with or without power. They had even toyed with the idea of lighting the venue with candles, hoping to add to the Halloween mystique. How cool would that have been? Alas, fire safety concerns won out and the backup plan became moving the event to a local hotel conference space. As luck would have it, CMP was able to restore the library’s power several hours before I was scheduled to appear.
Still, many in the community were dealing with their own power outages and I feared nobody would show. I needn’t have worried. Two dozen locals turned out, once again reminding me just how hardy Mainers can be. And to those in attendance, I read a passage from my latest novel, Beneath the Depths, not from an IPad, or a Kindle, but from an actual book!
Haven’t visited your local library lately? Perhaps you should. Might just recharge your battery.
Tell ‘em Bruce sent you.
I love this! I grew up in a small town, and a weekly one-mile walk to and from the library was the highlight of my week. I checked out as many books as library rules allowed. Your piece prompts me to plan a nostalgic return, next time I’m in town.
I’ve never met a library I didn’t love. When I travel I often visit the local library and the local grocery store to get the pulse of the community. Love this post, Bruce.
Your post reminds us how important libraries are to smaller cities and towns. They provide a central place for so many activities–community, educational and entertainment.
Thanks Bruce. I was on the road much of today (to a library, no less), so I’m just reading this now, but shared the link on Melibs-L the Maine library listserv.
Thank you from the volunteers and staff at Vose Library. Your program was a hit as is this plug for the public library as an institution. 🙂