When I separated from the Army so many years ago, I moved into a studio apartment in downtown Indianapolis. Out of my window I could see the back of a handsome and formidable structure — the city’s Central Library. It was a blessing I hadn’t considered when I moved in. While I’d saved some money from my military pay during my service, I wasn’t in any position to live large. The library rescued me.
As I attempted to write my first novel, eating bologna and eggs and often staying up around the clock typing or reading, my only treat was going next door, wandering into the elegant main room and then back into the stacks of this grand old building. There I met, for the first time, authors who weren’t part of my high school curriculum. There were rows and rows of books by writers from all over the world. Pretty amazing
Those first attempts at novel writing were a bust. I had nothing respectable to submit as my savings ran out. Yet, rent had to be paid. I got a job. I was promoted. I bought a car and later a house. I bought books. Soon, the library became for me what many of the city’s churches were: Beautiful structures that enhanced the city’s architecture, monuments to admire in passing.
Years later, when I decided to change my life, I moved to San Francisco, took a low-paying temporary job, rented a studio apartment, and began writing again. I also tried my hand at the visual arts. Again, in my monetary poverty I found riches at the library. I borrowed novels, records, and was inspired by all of the wonderful books on art and photography. Sometimes, just being surrounded by books is inspiration enough.
Unfortunately, is is not enough for some. There are those still trying to ban Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, among others. This is an old battle, yet one that has to be fought again and again.
And even in this computer age, the library is a place people who can’t afford to have Internet access, can have it. Because of libraries, children of poverty do not have to be denied in their search for knowledge and understanding.
That I now have a few of my own books on the shelves of various libraries around the country is an extraordinary honor. Libraries, for me, are sacred places. They not only provide incredible access to knowledge, provide places for everyone in a community to come together, and add to the physical beauty of the cities and towns they serve, they are also at the forefront in the fight against censorship and its incumbent threat to freedom of thought and the free-flow of ideas.
NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK — April 10-16