Libraries matter. Here’s how one changed my life.

LibrariesJosieBrown

Imagine my surprise when, one morning, I found myself tagged on one of the social media feeds by a library—The South Texas College Library—regarding a quote I'd once, made about libraries.

And, yes, I meant every word of it.

I grew up in libraries. I lived a block and a half from my elementary school, which kept its library open throughout the summer. That way, children could proudly complete the reading lists handed to them on the last day of school.

During one summer, I checked out every compendium it had of Broadway musicals by year, I read the scripts as if they were books. These massive volumes also had each musical's song lyrics, which I memorized. It didn't matter that I hadn't listened to their soundtracks. I could hear them in my mind.

Fast-forward fifteen years later, when I met the man who would later become my husband. He'd grown up in New York. Even as a pre-teen, he'd been taking the subway to Broadway, to catch shows: mostly musicals.

On many an occasion, he'd serenade me with show tunes. Imagine his surprise when this Georgia Peach, who (at least, back then), had never seen a Broadway show could sing along.

Libraries are my happy place. Now more than ever during this COVID crisis, I miss not being able to go into one. Thank goodness for curbside checkout, caring librarians, and digital book loans.

Libraries open our worlds beyond our physical reach. They open our minds to new ideas. They open our eyes to endless possibilities.

Libraries are where I learned to read.

Reading taught me to love fiction.

Loving fiction helped me learn to write.

Knowing that my books have given you a few hours of joy is my way of sharing my libraries with you.

—Josie

 

Got a favorite library? I invite you to post it with a comment. 

Here is one of my favorites: the Mill Valley Library (California), nestled in a grove of redwood trees, with a big homey fireplace, large windows, an outdoor deck, and a wonderful town history room.)

Mill Valley Public Library.jpg

Smile. Not just for our sakes, but for yours too.

Smile SidewalkSMILE.

It doesn't matter that you're wearing a mask and no one can see it.

And, yes, go ahead and say, “Hello.” Or, “How are you?” Maybe: “Have a nice day.”

Despite our anxieties, we can still communicate kind words and actions: say, a nod. Better yet, a wave.

I've noticed that, since COVID, I've avoided looking others in the eye. I no longer pet strangers' dogs, let alone ask the age of their pet, or complement their pet's pretty coat.

The only positive thing that's come out of it is that, while looking elsewhere, I see some things I may have missed: like the artist Fnnch's honey bears, which have popped up all over San Francisco. They masked in solidarity with the rest of us.

And when looking down, more street art catches my eye, like the lyrics to that great song from the musical, “Annie,” reminding us to smile.

Frankly, I'm glad to be chided out of my anxiety. I don't like the scaredy-cat I've become.

I don't like projecting my fears onto strangers.

It stops NOW.

If you've felt the same way, join me in regaining some of the humanity we're hiding under our masks.

To honor those who are genuinely superhuman—our first responders, the folks in the front lines of serving the sick, elderly, and the neediest among us; and those who keep essential businesses running so the rest of us can try to get through this as best we can— the very least we can do is to be human. Again.

—Josie