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.
- Did you know that our Book Squad will give personalized book recommendations, opens a new window? They’ll even make house calls to your book club, opens a new window.
- You can dig up family history with Ancestry, historic Kansas newspapers, maps, and more in our Local History Room, opens a new window.
- Run into a snag with your research? You can book a librarian, opens a new window.
- Want to record a podcast or produce a song with your band? Book a session in our Sound and Vision Studio, opens a new window.
- Need something festive for a birthday party or event? You can come to the library and use a button-maker, opens a new window to make personalized buttons.
- In our kids’ section, you can check out a Starling, opens a new window, a device to help you make sure your baby is hearing enough words.
- Got a teen at loose ends? We have loads of activities and resource (and other teens) in our Teen Zone, opens a new window.
- You can find a Notary Public at the library almost any hour that we’re open.
- And if getting around in the library is a challenge, check out our mobility scooter, opens a new window.
- If you or a family member have physical disabilities that prevent a visit to the library, you can arrange for home delivery, opens a new window.
- Need to make a call? We have a payphone.
- Need a place to study or meet with your group? You can reserve a study room or meeting room, opens a new window for free.
- Did you know that besides books, music, and videos, you can check out video games and board games?
- You don’t even have to go to the library to use it. You can check out digital magazines, books, and audiobooks from the library online, opens a new window.
- You can stream indy films and documentaries, opens a new window for free. You can use our digital resources to prepare for tests, opens a new window, learn a language, opens a new window, or repair your car, opens a new window.
- You can even access Consumer Reports, opens a new window digitally from home with your library card.
- And if you find all this tech stuff confusing - or you’re having trouble with your new device - you can make an appointment, opens a new window with one of our specialists or come to one of our tech drop-in sessions.
- And while it’s probably no surprise that you can use a computer, printer, or copier at the library - did you know you can send a fax for free? And use a real typewriter? Visit our Office Center, opens a new window to learn more.
- Want to connect with your community and do something meaningful? We have terrific volunteer opportunities, opens a new window (and terrific volunteers, by the way).
These are just some of the things the library can help you do. But we still have all the things you'd expect...book 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.