I love you, and I’m not alone. I love that utilizing your services has been one of my most financially, socially, creatively, environmentally sustainable choices as of late. I love that you have a poster of the most banned books of 2022, posted right at the entrance, with instructions on where to find them. I love the seniors who come in with their various mobility aids, meeting for their monthly book club. And I love watching kids approach the desk with teetering stacks of books, delighted by their loot.
You remind me of my best memories and are helping me make more. I see those kids with all the books and I’m reminded of Matilda, one of my first and truest friends. I wander the stacks, appreciating their sheer creative power and pretend I’m Harold with his purple crayon. I see a parent asking a librarian about Louis Sachar, and I cheer for Stanley Yelnats and Zero’s triumph over tyranny and laugh with those wacky, sideways kids from Wayside School. And then more worlds flood in, imagined places and stories that still shape my heart even though my brain has forgotten the titles, authors, and characters’ names. I love that you’ve helped me find new fantastical adventures, because I was a huge Harry Potter fan but that world doesn’t feel safe anymore as a trans person. (And, as an adult, I’m annoyed Hermione was manipulated into doing so much of Ron & Harry’s homework for them). But when I stumbled upon your Dewey Decimal section on modern physics, I lost an afternoon finding a new version of magic amongst quarks and the stars.
I love you, and I know I’m not alone. As I’ve started telling people about you and how much you mean to me, your many friends and lovers eagerly reveal themselves with stories of their own. They recount a first job, a transformational community event, the time the librarian helped them with an obscure request, or how you got them through the worst of the pandemic. And I love that, when I connect with my metamours through these stories, there is no jealousy, only shared joy.
I love how, even after we’ve been together for so long, you keep surprising me, keep showing me you are so much more than just books. Wait, you have hot spots to check out? Chromebooks? State Parks & local museum passes? Multiple towers of generator-powered charging stations in the event of a mass power outage? A sewing machine? A freakin’ telescope?!? I’ve always been drawn to your quiet, methodical, and patient nature, but your egalitarian spirit of radical acceptance, fierce and undying resistance to oppression, and deep commitment to community resilience brings on whole new levels of amazement and gratitude. You are a beacon of sustainability because every service you provide is intended to reduce waste, connect people with free tools and information, and enhance community resilience through shared resources.
Across the board, your devotees intuitively know you are a safe space. We know because you offer warmth and shelter to people without housing and don’t treat them like criminals for it. We know because we see your staff help folks struggling with the computers, or read weekend garage sale lists from craigslist to someone with disabilities. We know because of your educational events about Ramadan, Chinese New Year, local history, Spanish-language resources, and Black storytellers. We know because you are generous with your knowledge, and your stewards are dedicated advocates for access to resources, experiences, and community care. We know because the idea of free books feels so radical, so revolutionary, so out-of-context in 2023 America, that–as one of this blog’s editors pointed out–it’s difficult to say if you would be created now if you didn’t already exist.
I know you are safe because I’ve sought refuge with you at every age, a break from bullying and loneliness and a too-loud, too-bright world that I struggle to process. I know you are safe because you were the first place I wore my super bright rainbow hoodie I ordered after the Colorado Springs shooting, and the first place I wore my they/them hat after wanting to be more visibly non-binary in public because the constant misgendering was/is crushing me. You’re the first place I want to go when my curiosity comes alive and I feel the call to discover, and every time, you stretch my dreams of what is possible.
I especially love you because you won’t let me forget that I’m not alone. When I searched your catalog for the Heartstopper books and found a double-digit hold list, I didn’t mind waiting my turn because I felt connected to my community. While reading them I found–on just one page in four volumes–the tell-tale diagonal crease of an old dogear. That page held a beautiful moment in Nick & Charlie’s story: that anticipatory, nervous-sweating-excited, standing-on-the-edge, stomach-dropping moment when you want to tell someone you love them for the very first time, and I could feel that moment in my chest and in my body, and I looked back at the old dogear, and I cried. I cried because I felt like I knew the person who folded that page down, who wanted to remember and come back to the sweetness of that place (maybe when they were sad) but who also–or maybe someone else–took the care to fold it back. I cried because I understand how precious gentle queer love stories feel right now, how finding them feels like uncovering buried treasure, and how that simple fold affirmed what I am trying to hold alive within myself– that our stories are valid and important and vital and clearly we need lots and lots more of them. I cried because I realized how badly I wish I had Nick & Charlie right alongside those first memories with Stanley and Zero and Matilda and Hermione, and how grateful I am for these characters now.
I love you because it seems like every week, I see someone turning in slow circles, basking in your glory. They’ll see me smiling, turn to me with twinkling eyes and say, “Gosh, I just love this place. I mean I’ve always loved libraries but it’s been a while. I’m so glad I found them again, you know?”
Oh, yes. I really, really do. Come on back, friends. Come on home.
All my love,