Monday, May 4, 2015

Library Love

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of having a book talk and signing at our local public library in Alamogordo, New Mexico. And I was honored to have it in the Eugene Manlove Rhodes Room or, as it's more simply known, the Southwest Room which is dedicated to all fiction and non-fiction that deals with the southwest or, more specifically, New Mexico. Rhodes was a writer who was born in Tecumseh, Nebraska in the late 1800s but fell in love with New Mexico at a young age and lived in Alamogordo for a while. The Rhodes room at the Alamogordo Public Library houses a collection of his writings.

Shortly after I was married in 1988, my husband and I lived in Alamogordo and, since money was tight for movies and other forms of entertainment, one of the things I used to do was spend hours at the library, especially in the Rhodes room, reading and falling in love with several New Mexico books and authors. It was there that I took my first "baby steps" in writing a book. There in the Rhodes room, I could feel the whispers of those authors who had made New Mexico their home, in real life and in the pages of their books--Rudolfo Anaya, Willa Cather, Tony Hillerman, Aimee and David Thurlo, Steven Havill, among many others. And I dreamed of sharing a space on the shelves with them.

Almost thirty years later, that dream has come true. I've stood in that same room talking to groups of people who have read my books and signing copies for them and listening to them tell me how much they love the characters and scenes I've created. My appreciation for the library has grown with every book I write.

The librarian confided to me that they had hosted another author some time ago and the author was aghast to see his/her book on the shelves. Instead of feeling honored that the library had found the money in their tight budget to add that writer's book to their collection, he/she was furious that the library was allowing people to read the book for free--in other words, the author was more concerned about book sales than readers.

Book sales are important, no question, but the readers must come first. For that reason, I have made it a point to donate my books to any library that has hosted a book talk for me. Our libraries usually end up on the bottom of the list for additional funding, so anything I can do to support them is but a mere gesture of thanks for all they have given to me and to the communities they serve. It's an even bigger honor that the library does find funds to purchase my books (the librarian said they needed more than one copy to keep up with the demand!)

I suppose, like that other author, I could be disturbed at the thought of the number of sales I'm losing to readers who wait impatiently for a copy to be free for them to read at the library. But that's not what I'm counting. I'm counting the readers.

So this is a love letter to the libraries in our communities who nurture a love of reading and books in people of all ages. And maybe--just maybe--they help to inspire another person to pick up a pen and find their own place on the shelves someday.

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