My journey to the library came a full circle today.
I was eighteen the first time I stepped into a proper library: my college library at Lady Brabourne with its musty shelves, and not long after, the air-conditioned premises of British Council Library in Kolkata. Those were dark times, when I often had to make a choice between food and other essentials.
Not being of an academic bent of mind, I skipped my Political Science and Economics classes to hide in the library, spending long hours, reading literature from India and all parts of the world.
Library as a Refuge
Reading had always been my safe space, and libraries became my portals of escape. In my subconscious, this has become a sort of metaphor–and anytime things have fallen apart in my life, I’ve sought a library. Ten years ago, I wrote this post about spending a day at the library–this was during the drafting of You Beneath Your Skin. I drafted and edited the novel at various branches of the Singapore National Library, and the same is true for The Blue Bar. Many edit rounds happened in the quiet of library rooms.
Library as a Home for My Books
Over the last few weeks many libraries in the USA have acquired The Blue Bar–the New York Public Library has thirteen copies, for instance. Today though, I was able to do a surreal thing. In the very library where I’d edited The Blue Bar, and am currently working on its sequel, The Blue Monsoon, I was able to hold The Blue Bar in my hands, all shiny, with a library sticker. And the copies in the other branches are nearly all out on loan.
The candid pose above is me, holding my book at the library where it was written. In libraries, or even faced with my own bookshelves, I’ve often been overcome by my own puny existence: the fact that there are millions of books in this world, and mine is just one among them, perhaps to be forgotten in a few years.
Library as a Destination
Today, though. Today, for a while I could forget about my own stature as a writer, which in any case is a ridiculous thing.
Instead, I was able to stand in awe of this magical space that embraces all, irrespective of their social status, color or creed. This is one human creche where children can come in and be nurtured, their imagination be given free reign, their bodies and minds find stillness and safety.
This picture is me pointing at my book in my library, but it is also the projection of a child standing safe in a space that has allowed her to grow all these years.
If you like a book, recommend it to your local library.
If you have hours to spare, spend it volunteering at one.
If your local library is in danger, do everything to protect it.
If you are able to donate, give to a library in need–no amount is too small.
Standing with The Blue Bar at my library today was joy, but it was also a promise.
I know I’ll keep adding more books to that library shelf in all the days I’m given, but I’ll also work towards supporting public libraries no matter where I find them.
What about you? When was the last time you spent a day at the library? What do libraries mean to you? Do you ever recommend the authors you like to your local library? If you’re an author, do libraries carry your books? What does that feel like?
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Yes, we do. Not only our dear Master’s books but also books we like. We have a close connection to local libraries as we sometimes get rid of our book collections of some topics. Last time we donated more than 5.000 books from our private library. When we recommend books and sometimes authors they usually follow our recommendation.
All the best
The Fab Four of Cley
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
What a joyful moment!
That’s awesome, D! Through Overdrive and other library services, I know readers are reading my ebooks from libraries, even if not in print that I know of. My local library doesn’t really buy new paperbacks — it’s all donated by patrons (I’ve donated boxes of books from my own shelves over the years as I outgrew certain books).
I’m glad your community and you support a local library and hope one day it will start acquiring new books. So cool that your books are on Overdrive and Libby!
Hi Damyanti – I tried to get your earlier book into my library, but nothing happened … then covid appeared. I will most definitely try again with The Blue Bar … cheers for now – I’ve got to get used to spending time in our library – not something I’ve ever done, we were 5 miles from our library growing up as kids. But I did spend time in the library at school (boarding) devouring books. Cheers Hilary
The worst thing that ever happened to me was when they closed all the British Council Libraries in Israel. I can’t get any good books in English here anymore, because the stupid American Cultural Center has such a terrible collection of fiction – just shameful.
So sorry to hear that, Davida. I know from my experiences in India how hard it is without libraries.
LOVE this! I haven’t been to the library as much since the pandemic started, but I’ve always loved the library. A place of magic and possibilities. And what a lovely photo of your reality – the possibilities came true 🙂
Thanks Jemi. Yes, sometimes, dreams do come true.
What a good idea to recommend to local library to house books you’d like to read. I’ll do that …
Yes, I love libraries – have an active account at my one though haven’t visited for a while …
Congratulations you you Damyanti on many libraries around the world housing your The Blue Bar!
Thanks so much, Susan. Libraries are such nourishing spaces–glad that you enjoy yours.
Good ideas! When I was young I got all my books from public libraries. Today I sometimes recommend and donate books to libraries.
Libraries contribute so much to our lives. Kudos to you for helping to keep them alive.
What an incredible feeling of fulfillment to return to a place where you first studied other people’s writings and now see your own name on the shelf. Congratulations. I think my children read every book in the little second hand book store in Pune India and were always hungry for more after I’d delivered them an armful of books which they quickly consumed. They were better for growing up in that environment rather than being sucked into the useless TV swamp.
Thanks for the kind words, Ian. Pune does sound a fair bit like where I grew up. Yes, books are so much better as a medium than TV for young children in many, many ways.
I’m a frequent flyer at the library and request books constantly. Congrats on your book.
That’s so cool, and thank you!!
I’m not sure what the process of recommending a book to a library would be, but it’s a good idea.
If you google up your library name + ‘suggest a title’, you’ll probably be taken right to the page where you can recommend a title to your library. All they need is the author’s name/ book title/ ISBN and maybe another detail or two–all of which you can find on the book’s amazon page.
This post resonated with me. I adore libraries and have always made a point of joining the local library whenever we move. At a time when I was very poor and purchasing books was not an option I spent hours and hours in libraries. Education, escape, refuge and delight. I have never recommended a book. My bad – which I will try and rectify..
Yes, for the longest while I was too poor to buy books to read, and had no access to libraries. And when I did, they became a healthy, nourishing environment for escape.
You can easily recommend books, Sue. Nowadays most libraries let you do it online.
I wish more people would recommend books to the libraries. I often request a book when I don’t see it listed in the catalog. Thanks for the question.
Lee, I think so, too. Recommending books to the library is one of the best ways of supporting an author or books in general.
Two of my fondest memories are from time spent in libraries–one the US’s Library of Congress (for a day) and the other a week spent in University of Notre Dame’s amazingly thorough library. I don’t recommend books, but really should. Thanks for the reminder.
I SO envy you, Jacqui. Two places I’d dearly love to visit!
I don’t usually visit our library but I can request they get books online.
Yes, that online request is a wonderful way to support books and fellow authors.
Congratulations Damyanti. Keep going! 🙂