You were right, Dean!

When The Library Book, opens a new window (by Susan Orlean) first came out I was intrigued, and I joined the long line of people on hold for it. And as time went on, library patrons kept telling me that I HAD to read this book. My old friend, Dean, was especially insistent. But when my turn came, I had just received a couple of other books that I had been waiting for, so I put off reading it - and besides, who wants to read about a library on fire?! Really, I don’t even read true crime books because while I love a gritty thriller or mystery (fiction, mind you), I can’t stand to know it really happened to someone. I felt the same way about reading about a burning library. Folks continued to tell me I HAD to read it, so I finally gathered up my courage and steeled myself to read it. And guess what - I LOVED it!

You see, it is about so much more than the Los Angeles Central Library fire. I admit that I read with tears streaming down my face the part (both disturbing and strangely beautiful) describing how the fire moved through the library consuming the materials. But again, there is so much more to this book - the history of the LA Central Library, the history of libraries in general, the backstory of the suspected arsonist, and even the history of arson investigation. Orlean successfully keeps your interest throughout the book, going back and forth between these different parts of the story. She also covers the clean-up and rebuilding of the library, including some of the creative tactics used to raise the necessary funds. But my favorite part was experiencing Orlean’s learning about the role of libraries in our communities, and how that has changed over the years. And the almost evangelical quality of many library employees and their love for and commitment to their communities - and their communities’ love for and service to their libraries.

Like many people, Orlean had frequented her local library as a child (learning to love libraries from her mother) but had fallen away from going to the library as an adult. As you read the book, you can feel her renewed wonder in the face of all that libraries are and do these days. And this, in turn, reminds me of how proud I am to be part of a dynamic library that serves an important role in our community - and all of the wonderful, unexpected things that people can do and find at LPL.

These are just some of the things the library can help you do. But we still have all the things you'd groups, author talks, storytimes, book sales, and all kinds of programs, community meetings, and events. Oh yes, and we do have lots of books!

-Jill Mickel is an Info Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.