To the Book Depository! (Go Team Book.)

So, like many of you, I read this a few days ago. And it made my head explode. It was one of those articles that hit almost every major aspect of my life. I'm a writer. I'm also a bookseller and the bookstore I work in is directly above a library. There is so much wrong with what this guy said that I walked around the store sputtering to every employee I can find. 

And here it is--this guy...I don't even want to be in the same category as him--is so out of touch it's almost like something out of a farce. He's like a new version of Marie Antoinette saying, "let them eat brioche!" I'm so mad, I don't even know how to begin.

Libraries are huge and they are, like Neil Gaiman said, about more than books. They are community. They are the knowledge keepers. My local library offers free classes. They help you with your taxes. They offer free internet, and for a lot of people, that's how they're going to find work, print out their medical paperwork, and so on. When I lived in New Orleans and Mississippi, that was the only way some kids could get their homework done. The library was their access not only to source material but to an actual computer to type it up on. *NEWS FLASH* Not everyone can afford computers.

I grew up in a small town. We didn't really have much in the way of bookshops until they built a mall when I was older. I was/am a voracious reader. I would beg my parents to take me to the library. What would I have done without it? I would have missed out on all those authors, stories and ideas.

*2nd News Flash* Not everyone can buy books, either. Also, just because you read a book in the library doesn't mean you're not going to buy it. I can't even count the times people have told me (while I'm signing their PURCHASED BOOK), "My librarian told me to read it and I loved it!" or "I read them at the library and I just had to buy them for my friend!" Librarians and booksellers handsell my book ALL THE TIME. They have been amazingly supportive and I wouldn't have made it this far without them. In my mind they are part of Team Book. I love Team Book.

So what about the people who read it in the library and don't buy? Look, I like being paid for my work. Really. It is my job and I hope that one day I won't need a second job to stay afloat. That being said, I would rather they read it in a library than not at all. Being an artist (I don't really label myself as such, but you get the idea) is not like a normal job. Your work isn't a commodity. We sometimes treat it as one, but it's more than that. Sure, pay for a painter's work and hang it in a museum and charge...but then offer a free museum day. Because paintings, like books, are ideas. They're beauty. They're knowledge, thoughts and dreams. They're something to be shared and enjoyed. They change your mind. Break your heart. Make you grow. Again, I like making money to buy things like food, but it's not just about that. It's about sharing my stories and becoming part of someone's imaginative life.

Again, post hurricane Katrina, I was stuck in a small town in Mississippi. I had to stay home with my son, who wasn't even two yet, while everyone else was  two hours away, working. Sometimes they'd all be gone for days. So it was me and a toddler in a town where I didn't know anyone and there was nothing to do. I couldn't even really go on walks with him because PACKS OF WILD DOGS roamed what few streets the town had. I didn't really have any money, having just lost pretty much everything, so I couldn't spend much on books (besides my text books). But the town over had a library. So I would go there with my son and check out books. It kept us sane. That library was like a lifeline. I'm glad I didn't have to deny my little boy books. He is growing into a life long lover of books as well, and when we moved back to Seattle, one of the first things I did was find our closest branch. They gave us a sticker that said, "I love libraries." My son said, "That's a good sticker. And it's true. We do love libraries."

Oh, and hey, guess how I printed out my applications for grad school? You know, the place where I got my writing degree and where I found my agent? The library. And when I was at school, where did I spend most of my time? The school library. I wrote stories there. I printed them out. I drank some of the worst coffee I've ever had. All of this (except the coffee) was so very vital to me becoming a writer. 

Bookshops have always closed, opened, closed--they are a fluid business, as one of my coworkers pointed out. We've had libraries for a very long time and if the idea is that libraries are closing bookshops, then wouldn't they all be gone by now? The library below my bookshop isn't a threat. They are nice people who loan me books. I've gone on to buy a great many of those books. People also walk into our bookstore WITH THEIR LIBRARY BOOKS, hold them up and say, "I loved this. Can you help me find it? I want to buy it." And you know what? Sometimes I CAN'T because that book is out of print. It's nice to know that the library is keeping that book alive for new readers to find.

When I was walking around sputtering, another of my coworkers was laughing at me and saying what was funny was that I was so shocked by this kind of stupidity. And really, I wasn't, it was just the utter wrongness of it blew a few of my gaskets. He then said something like, "Look, Lish. There will always be libraries. People may close them, governments may pull funding, but they will always come back."

And you know what? He's right. We won't let them close. Book lovers won't let that happen. We can't let that happen. And then I had this sudden image of libraries popping up like forbidden speakeasies. People converting shady vans into bookmobiles. Masked people on bikes, their backpacks or baskets full of books to lend out. To give. Librarians as firebrands--as revolutionaries.

And the thought made me smile. Because there was a lot of truth there.

Books are dreams. Hopes. Ideas. Thoughts. And they are meant to be shared in whatever way possible.

So librarians--thank you. I love you. I really, truly, do. I appreciate all that you've done for me, for my family, for my community. I have not forgotten. I will never forget.

I will leave you with this lovely response to Mr. Deary's remarks.

And now, I must go to work. To sell books. And, on my break, to return my books to the library downstairs.