I often write in the library.
I am there now, the quiet room of Monroeville Public Library is my office, my sanctuary, the place where I can lay aside the distractions and let my fingers drum on the keyboard as I drain one reservoir in my mind after another.
Taking a moment, I let my eyes drift over the room and I find a full house. People at each other tables, most with computers but some curled up with newspapers, magazines or even real, honest to goodness books.
There is John, who comes to watch movies on Netflix and eat snacks from his seemingly bottomless bag of chips, nuts, cheese crackers and trail mix.
At the table in the center of the room, two college aged girls are studying for a nursing exam and arguing over what they are going to do over the weekend.
Shaun and his brother Miguel are using the free wifi to study Spanish in preparation for a trip to meet their cousins in Huatulco in April. They have been coming here faithfully three or four days a week for months.
The cast of characters is ever changing, but John and I are usually the first ones here in the morning when the library opens and he and I are similar in that we talk to everyone, finding out their stories, questioning them about their existence and trying to remember their names.
I know every librarian by name and most of them know me as well. The ladies that work the main desk know that I drink tea, never coffee and that I love coloring and carry my own colored pencils around with me. They will often give me a head’s up when I come in to let me know that a particularly nice design has been put out on the coloring table, so that I can snag one and take it home to work on it there.
At this time of day, it is around 1pm, there are people on many of the library’s free to use computers and they are doing everything from printing college homework assignments to playing online roll playing games.
Once school lets out, there will be an influx of teens and pre-teens looking to use the computers to complete online homework assignments or to kill time until mom or dad can get out of work and pick them up. At times they can get kind of rowdy but the librarians generally keep a pretty good house and keep them at least down to a dull roar.
There is an unspoken rule in the quiet room, and that is the bathroom rule. If anyone has to get up and trudge to the other end of the building to use the restroom, the rest of us watch over their computers, books, backpacks, what have you. I do it for them, they do it for me and the worry and inconvenience is much lessened.
In a myriad of ways, this building is invaluable to me. Not only does it have the space for me to write and create, but it has an impressive collection of books that are mere feet away. And the books that they do not have, they are more than happy to request in for you from any of dozens of other libraries in the county. Most of which arrive within a couple of days. I have read some books that would have been out of reach to me if it had not been for that system.
They have programs for children, teens and adults, ranging from a Lego club, to book clubs and crocheting groups. They have a small art gallery that doubles as a presentation space where they offer a wide variety of programs from animal rescues to music and art discussions.
There is magic here. All libraries contain this sort of magic but this one is, in a sense, a hub of the energy of this area. The elderly here rub elbows and make jokes with the college kids, the high schoolers help their young siblings find books, young entrepreneurs use the internet to discover ways to make it big and you can buy a cup of tea or a bag of Cheetos at the front desk if you get snacky.
If you open yourself up to possibility, there is an endless amount of fun you can have in this place. There are books on origami, dog training and African American history. There are comfy chairs that no one minds if you nod off in. There are huge floor to ceiling windows that have massive trees rustling next to them. There is a noisy old elevator that sounds like it is going to shake itself apart (they are raising funds to replace it.) There are folks just looking for a conversation and ones that won’t even acknowledge that you have spoken.
I read all the time about libraries closing due to lack of funding and that makes me sad. I see a hundred people a day that would have a large portion of their lives hollowed out if this place were gone. I am one of them.
There is currently an elderly woman, using a walker and she is going up and down the aisle past Chemistry and Life Sciences as if she is on a mission and across from her a young black man is sitting crosslegged on the floor reading a book on rebuilding motorcycles. They exchanged a pleasant greeting and went back to their pursuits.
John just pulled out a bag of sour cream and chive sun chips and the smell of it has made my stomach attempt to speak whale and so I will close this with a suggestion. Go, visit your local library, see what magic you can find there. It might not be a variable village like this one but I promise you, you will find something amazing in those walls, on those shelves, in the people that gather there.
Take care of yourselves…