My library is my refuge. It is the place that I write, but it’s also a place where I can sit and stare at my computer or distract myself with a book from a nearby shelf if I don’t want to write. My library is the place where my two novels came into the world. I’m there every week, without fail, because it’s the only place I can go to write where the background hum of people hunting for books creates the perfect level of white noise. I can’t write in total silence, nor with the bursts of ebullience from my kids at home.
Am I interrupted? Oh, sometimes, but it’s by the librarians who are thrilled to have a writer in their midst, by librarians who are now my friends and stop by to see if I need anything, or to see how the next book is progressing. And from my visits, for two years now, I know how crucial their work is, their enthusiasm for reading. And I’m eternally grateful for all of them.
The first library I visited was on the second floor of my grammar school, St. Ann’s, in Flushing, New York. The square room was no bigger than a suburban basement, but its modest collection of books had the power to take me anywhere—I solved crimes in Bayport with the Hardy Boys, rafted the Mississippi with Huck Finn, and spent a summer in Alabama with Scout Finch. That undersized library was a place to escape science and geography projects—not to mention spelling assignments from persnickety nuns.
The wonderment of a library is that, for me, its magic has never dissipated. As life moved forward and I encountered more complicated issues of the heart, mind, and wallet, the library continued to offer me the same escape. Now, as an adult living in Brooklyn, New York, I made sure to move within a block of a public library. And when I walk inside, I ask the same questions I did back in Flushing: where am I going today? And who is going to take me there?