LIBRARY NERDS, UNITE!
I don’t know why God is so present to me in libraries, but sometimes I sense His presence between stacks of books more than in any cathedral, church, or prayer closet.
I don’t have much memory of libraries before the age of twelve, when we moved to the rural town of Conneaut, Ohio. Conneaut was a depressing place, and I was changing from a boy into a young man. I had the run of the town on my bike, an old Schwinn that I had tried to turn into a BMX racer.
I would ride out of our driveway, speed down Broad Street past the Convenience Food Mart, under a viaduct that rattled with trains, and up the hill toward Main Street. There was a library on the right-hand side, and I had never seen one like it before. It was Victorian-looking, musty, and dark. It had two stories, the second story being a balcony along the walls. And there was a large frosted glass skylight directly overhead.
I would sit at a long polished wood table and look at the biggest dictionary I could find. I was too old for kids’ books and didn’t know I had permission to get adult books. I rarely, if ever, came home with something to read other than a Hardy Boys novel. I just liked being there.
In high school and college, I spent most of my time in the record and CD sections of St. Louis County Libraries. I spent hours thumbing through jazz, classical, pop, rock, and avant-garde music. I came home with Stevie Wonder, The Rippingtons, George Winston, Dave Brubeck, Phillip Glass, Mozart, and The Clash. I’d listen for hours.
But as an adult, I’ve retreated into libraries so often that they feel like home. I often come with a question for God. I’ll ask him, “How in the world do I get my finances under control?” And I’ll run into a good book, like All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren, and have it change my life.
I’ve asked God for a song idea. And I’ll run across a book like Anna Quindlen’s Loud and Clear and find the song “Life Is More” suggested in its pages.
I’ve asked God for the boldness to do the things I need to do, then find How Successful People Win by Ben Stein, a witty and helpful guide to acting like a grown-up.
And sometimes I’ll need an escape. I found Jody, Texas, in Stephen King’s 11/23/63. And Lettie Hempstock’s farm in Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.
Sometimes I’ll need a wise and soulful friend and find Mary Oliver’s Collected Poems or Billy Collins’s Nine Horses.
I’m in a library today, and look: I found this little thing to write for people who love libraries as much as I do.