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Books, Etcetera with Lynn Carey: Lovin' Libraries

Lynn checks out our local library scene and finds it hopping.

A friend told me the other day that when she went to pick up a book she had on hold at the library, instead of the usual two shelves of “hold” books, there were three walls of hold books.

Business is good somewhere, it’s nice to know!

I love libraries. They have a special smell about them, the smell of the printed word, of pages softened by use, of plastic coverings on the covers. To me, it became the smell of magical anticipation. On my weekly visits to the library in my home town as a child, I never knew if the next book I checked out would be my favorite for life, or just for seven days, until I checked out the next one.

In high school, the library was my safe haven, where I hid during lunch to avoid the snippy girls who made fun of people as they walked by. (At my 10-year reunion, there wasn’t a library to hide in when the dancing started, so I dashed off to hide in the ladies room. And, wouldn’t you know, there were the snippy girls, making fun of people. I realized, finally, how pathetic they all were and went out and danced.)

In recent years I haven’t been hanging out in libraries as much. As a journalist who writes about books, I get a lot of them sent to me—but I give the books to the library when I’m done with them.

Libraries are crazy busy these days. San Ramon librarian Nancy Kreiser says they saw a 23 percent increase in hold books this February, compared to last February. Livermore librarian Rosemary Dukelow says holds are up 20 percent, compared to last year. (The most popular book on hold in Livermore is The Help by Kathryn Stockett, by the way.)

People are returning to the library in droves. “We’re starting to recognize faces,” Kreiser says.

But, they’re not just coming for books. They’re coming to use the computers to look for jobs. They are coming to download books and music. About 140 young families came to their library on a Friday night last month for a free sing-a-long, she says

“People usually have two places, home and work, or home and school,” Kreiser says. “We’re hoping libraries are the third place they’ll go.”

I think I’ll go to one, and put The Help on hold. I might see someone I know there.

For 12 years, Lynn Carey has run the Times Book Club, which now appears in the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune newspapers. For the past 17 years, she's lived in Lafayette with her husband, Lamorinda Sun columnist Mike Zampa, and their two teenagers.