Last night, I helped the Park City Library celebrate National Library Week with my sheltie, Sherlock. I not only talked about my book, A Dog's Way Home, but I talked about the importance of libraries in my life. Of course, since it's also National Poetry Month, I had to read Mary Oliver's poem, Percy and Books (which I posted last week on this blog). Anyway, since most of you couldn't be at the Park City Library last night, I thought I'd share with you my talk about libraries.
It's a particular pleasure for me to be here to kick off National Library Week. As some of you know, in my other life, I'm a librarian--I've been one for an embarrassing number of years. I'm also on the board of the Park City Library, so my commitment to libraries runs deep. And long.
When I was a kid, we moved a lot. My mother and my sister thought it was all a grand adventure to move on to the next place, where things would undoubtedly be better. But not me. I was a shy, sensitive child who craved permanence and stability. I did not make friends as easily as my sister did. My best friends were of the four-footed variety, and were also characters in books with names like Pippi Longstocking, Lassie, and others. As soon as we'd move to a new town, unpack the car and our few belongings, I'd head to the public library. There I knew just how the books would be arranged on the shelves and how the place would smell, no matter if we were in Destin, Florida or Dawson, Georgia. When I walked through that front door of whatever library it was and smelled that musty, sweet bookish smell, I knew I was home. As a child, libraries--both public and school--provided a secure place for me, no matter where I was. And books helped me make sense of the world and not feel so alone.
A lot like dogs, now that I think about it.
As a writer, libraries and books helped me tell my own stories. For both of my books, The Ring and A Dog's Way Home, I spent hours and hours of time in the library doing research to make my books (even though they were fiction) ring honest and true. I read books by authors who wrote on the same subjects I did--authors like Chris Crutcher, E.L. Going, Kate DiCamillo, and Cynthia Rylant--for inspiration and courage.
I could not imagine being a writer without being a reader. And I could not be a reader without libraries. I doubt many of us could.
(As utterly amazing as this speech of mine was, my sweet little sheltie boy, Sherlock, was the star of the show)