• Miles O'Neal

Love Your Libraries

I've read as far back as I can remember. During my teen years and most of my adult life, I read at least 2-3 books a week; during peak times that was 2-3 a day.. My wife and our children read prodigiously as well. We own 2,000 books (perhaps a quarter are kids' books and a tenth are reference books), and have sold or given far more away. Some walked off or were stolen. Yet without libraries, we could never have read all the books we read, much less accessed all the reference materials we needed. Even in this digital age, some of what we need is only available in physical books. (Most libraries today have extensive digital collections, as well as physical media.)

Dad took me for my first library card at the age of five. The librarian wouldn't listen to us about my reading level and insisted on taking me to the picture book section. She let me check out two books. I picked a book on dinosaurs and a riddle book. The next day, I took them back. The skeptical librarian quizzed me on dinosaurs and the jokes. She asked me to read a few pages. She then apologized and told me to help myself to whatever I wanted to read. If I asked for help on a topic she took me to MG (middle grade) section. This began my lifelong love affair with libraries.

When I started school soon afterward, I got a card for the school library and the Bookmobile. I kept all three maxed, and usually returned the books for new ones well before full term. My family has always had library cards, even if we had to pay for them. We're usually on a first name basis with some of the local librarians.

Mom and Dad gave me my love of books. They introduced me to many genres, from science fiction to fantasy, from history to biography. But while they introduced me to some of my favorite authors and books, I found far more through librarians, the stacks, and the card catalog.

I loved libraries enough to be a student worker in the Dolphin Terrace Elementary School in El Paso. I never managed to get a position in the Georgia school libraries after we moved there, but did volunteer in the Resurrection Lutheran Church library on Augusta, and later ran the small library at Midtown Mission CoG in Atlanta.

I donate copies of my books to local libraries (municipal and school), and give good discounts to other libraries. My daytime employer has a library with physical branches in several offices; copies of my books go to most of those. I participate in the local library's author fairs. I look for opportunities to work with school librarians (and teachers); most would love to have an author come talk to the students.

I hear on a regular basis that libraries are on their way out, but so far I haven't seen it. While they may evolve into something else in the digital age, this hasn't occurred yet. Civilization will always have a need for libraries in some form. That may well mean entering into books via holodecks, which excites me. But I hope physical books and physical libraries are around for a long time to come. Far from anachronisms, they are still a key organ in the body of civilization.

Support your local library. Visit it. Find new things to read, whatever form you like to read (including audio books). And if you're an author, donate- or at least sell at deep discounts- to your local libraries. Even if you didn't grow up in libraries, it's a great way to give back to the community, and to increase readership. You won't regret it.

Photo copyright © 2017 Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System. All rights reserved. Text copyright 2019 Miles O'Neal, Round Rock, TX. All rights reserved.

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