On our podcast episode with Genevieve Cogman, the subject of libraries came up. Which is natural, of course, because Cogman's whole series is called The Invisible Library. But really, an author talking about libraries seems like it would be the most natural thing in the world. I don't know of a single author who doesn't have personal story or connection with a library at some point in their lives. And libraries are full of not only books, but readers for those books.
Librarian and friend of the podcast, Shelly Toler Franz, explains some of what her experience with authors and readers in her library in Illinois is like:
"As a librarian, I love planning author appearances, and watching readers connect with authors on a deeper level than maybe they ever have before. The best part of my job is connecting books with readers who will love them and opening up those worlds to readers who might not have discovered them otherwise."
Having worked in libraries myself, I know how rewarding it is to make that connection between a reader and a book. I can really relate to what Shelly means when she says, "The glow on a patron's face when they bring back something I recommended and they loved it is worth more than my paycheck."
I spoke with a few of the past guests and friends of the Once and Future Podcast to see what they thought of libraries, and how they were affected by them as they grew up. I hope you enjoy their tales!
Anton Strout, author of the Spellmason Chronicles and the Simon Canderous series and host of The Once and Future Podcast:
"Growing up I was poor, and much like proverbial walk to school both ways uphill in the snow, my escape from it all was biking through our town, sometimes to the next town, to our libraries... they were a safe space where I could wander and get lost in the adventures of Piers Anthony, Tolkien, Agatha Christie, Stephen King... I was a strange kid, but that love of reading and the mystical, arcane childhood feeling of being in a library has never left me."
Delilah S. Dawson, author of Star Wars: Phasma and other awesome books and comics:
"When I hit middle school, my school's library failed me. I wanted big, meaty books I could get lost in-- an escape from my real life, which was plagued by bullying, boredom, and awkwardness. When I'd exhausted our local used bookstore, my mom took me to the library, and that's where I found what I was looking for. I was too shy to ask for a librarian's help, but I managed to find the Fantasy section. Jean Auel, Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Adams were favorites. Although she's problematic now, the books of Marion Zimmer Bradley changed my life. For the first time, I saw Fantasy narratives in which women were the main characters, and it made me feel like I could be the hero of my own story, too. That's the kind of book I want to write."
Beth Cato, author of Red Dust and Dancing Horses as well as The Blood of Earth trilogy:
"Libraries were an essential part of my childhood. I was a voracious reader and we didn't have a lot of money. We couldn't buy lots of new books or consistently find ones we wanted at the used bookstore in town. My school librarians and the city librarians knew I was horse obsessed. They would actually set aside newly-acquired horse books so that I'd be the first to read them! One of the city librarians would even save discarded C. W. Anderson books for me to buy for a quarter, enabling my obsession in the best sort of way."
Elizabeth Vaughan, author of the Chronicles of the Warlands series:
"Libraries have always been a place of wonder for me. My Dad took me when I was a kid, and I still remember when I was allowed to check out my first gown-up book. No pictures! It was all words! My first job was as a library page. In college, the library was a refuge and haven. When I got my first real job, just starting out and couldn't afford books and video tapes, I could go to the library and check them out.
Libraries have aided me in my world-building as tremendous sources of reference material, with helpful librarians who are more than willing to try to help answer questions when I was trying to design my own plague. I still use their services on a regular basis. And, yes, it thrills me to see my books on their shelves.
We are blessed with a strong and vigorous library system where I live. It is a tremendous community resource. Yes, yes paper books may be on the way out. But libraries? They are a critical part of our access to information and always will be."
Do you have any stories about libraries and the impact they have made in your life? Feel free to share in the comments!
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis. She studied astronomy and physics at Northern Arizona University and has published some non-fiction in the field of astronomy and library sciences. She's the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.