I’m writing to you while on a trip to the Colorado mountains. From where I type, I have a view of fourteeners, 14,000-foot peaks too tall for trees and ribboned in mid-August snow. To a certain set of trekkers, fourteeners are irresistible lures. “Peak baggers” dream of reaching every summit, ticking them off their lists.
Why do I mention this? Because it occurs to me that I’m a bagger too. Sure, I’ve hiked on this trip, but I haven’t felt compelled to slog up thin-aired peaks. I have, however, trekked out of my way to visit the local library. I am a library bagger.
I adore visiting libraries. Each is unique, isn’t it? A reflection of its community, place, and history. There’s always something to learn from the library. Currently, I’m in Leadville, Colorado, which lays claim to the highest elevation library in the country. There’s a checkmark for my library-bagging card.
Patrons of the Leadville library can also exchange heirloom garden seeds and borrow tools, skis, sound equipment, and knitting needles from the “library of things.” A Victorian-styled reading room honors a founder, Mary Louise Stickley, who brought books to a rough-and-tumble gold rush town. There’s even a bicycle bookmobile, the Bibliobicicleta. How wonderful!
I’m filing the Bibliobicicleta on another list: fun ideas for future books. That, most of all, is why I seek out libraries. Libraries are inspiring.
Wherever they are, they also feel like home. I grew up in rural northern Pennsylvania, far from Leadville but not dissimilar in its remote location and mining scars. The library was my go-to place, as familiar and comfortable as my grandmother’s house. Thanks to the library, I could imagine other worlds, other lives and experiences. I can say without a doubt that I would not be where I am today—or writing books—without the library and librarians.
My characters feel the same way. In my latest cozy mystery, Last Word to the Wise, two bookseller sisters named Christie must summon their inner Miss Marples to solve crimes in their small Colorado town. Key scenes take place in their local library, a fictional place based loosely on my hometown library.
Midway through revisions, doubt stabbed at me. The Christie sisters run a renowned bookshop with overflowing shelves. One sister even lives over the shop. They have easy access to books. Would they be big library lovers too?
Thankfully, here was a worry I could shelve decisively. Of course they would! They’re bibliophiles! To them, like me, the library is the place to discover new reads, to explore and be inspired.
On their behalf, and mine too, thank you, librarians. Thank you for all that you do, the knowledge you share, and the magical spaces you create. I hope to visit your library someday. I know it will be wonderful.