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The Public Library Is Stuff That Works

This is a new Sunday series that I call Stuff that Works. Each Sunday I pick an item that is for me a foundation element in my line up of stuff that matters or as legendary Texas singer songwriter Guy Clark put it – “The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall.”

Plaza LibraryI’ve always been a fan of the public library. I actually got the reading bug later than some. I guess I was too busy chasing down fly balls and building forts in the wooded acreage where I grew up. In high school I had the good fortune to have a teacher who taught me how to really read a book and although I’m sure I did not appreciate it at the time, I owe him a huge debt. He showed me how to find things in books that I had never noticed, how to have a conversation with the author rather than simply scan the words on the page and, perhaps most importantly, how to put myself in the story.

From that point on I became hooked on the library. In college I would go there to study and in some cases just to be among that many books. Few places felt warmer and safer than a library during a thunderstorm. When I started my own business I would often visit the reference section to find out how to do this, how to register that and where to find lists and events that made sense for my business.

When my children were little we would make almost weekly treks to the basement of the Plaza branch of the Kansas City library. The group of children’s librarians that hung out with us in that place knew the perfect book for us every time.

Even as the age of the Internet and free information has caused a shift in how we use our libraries it is the one place on the planet where you’ll likely find a tween researching Gandalf, next to a mom researching gluten free recipes, next to an attorney researching case law, next to a homeless man researching the roots of the Mayan Calendar. That fact alone makes the library a special place.

I’ve written some part of all three of my books in my library. When I travel I often pop into libraries just to see different ones.

This summer I am absolutely thrilled to have been asked to speak at the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Anaheim California and I plan to tell them about my fondness for the institution. If you’ve enjoyed a library at some point in your life, make sure you let them know with moral and financial support. These public places are only as strong as the communities that help them thrive.

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