National Library Week and a book called The Library.
April 15, 2011

This week is National Library Week, a celebration hosted by the American Library Association.  As such, Steph asked me a couple weeks ago to contribute to Offbeat Mama by writing a post about libraries.  She left it pretty open-ended.  So I did.  I wrote about how local libraries are, to us, about so much more than just books.  I also wrote about how I think that people should bring babies to the library, noise be damned.  The way I see it is this: without children who grow up around books, libraries have no future.  And if we let libraries go, what sort of message are we sending to our children about the importance of education and community?

This is a controversial concept, but I think it’s an important one: I think that libraries are more about community than anything else.  They’re about reading, sure.  They’re about knowledge and creativity and understanding, sure.  But they’re really, more than anything, about community.  Libraries bring people from every walk of life together and THAT, more than anything, is why I keep coming back.  I can read books at home, but I can pretty much guarantee that twenty parents and their children won’t be descending on my home Thursday morning for an animated reading of Where the Wild Things Are.  My wild rumpus, while ridiculous, just isn’t that awesome.

I wanted to pick a book about just that – about libraries and community – to feature this week.  So I picked The Library, a classic written by Sarah Stewart and beautifully illustrated by David Small.

The Library is actually 95% about the protagonist, Elizabeth Brown.  It follows her from birth until the day that she donates her books to the city and creates a library.  It’s clever, witty, and whimsical.  Images of her sitting among stacks of books always make me smile and I can completely relate to her love of reading.

It’s the end – the part where she turns her house into a public library, moves in with a friend, and the two of them visit the library every day to read together – that I love.

As a whole, Stewart’s book is filled with the sort of positive story-telling that I want in a book for my daughter.  It’s over the top as well, which makes it easy to read out-loud and is something kids always like.  The bookworm of a character follows her heart’s desire: she reads, reads, and reads some more.  She goes to school and finds a job tutoring.  She makes books and reading A WAY OF LIFE.  Then, in a brilliant twist that turns The Library into something extraordinary, she recognizes that the community at large will benefit more than she will from owning her books.  I also love that, for once, a female character lives to a ‘ripe old age’ without a prince charming to keep her company.  She has a friend.

I like that.  It seems somehow perfect.

Honestly, the only part of the book that I’m not super keen on is that Elizabeth Brown is depicted stereotypically and twice friends of mine have commented on the feeling that she reads at the expense of having a fulfilling social life.  I personally do not have a problem with this because I think that there are little details that attest to the contrary, but I have had to make an effort to point them out to Charlotte when we’re reading.

At any rate, it’s an excellent book.  In light of this being National Library Week, I would like to urge all of you to take a moment sometime soon to visit your local library.  Libraries die without visitors, so stop by!  Bring your babies!  Say hi!  And while you’re there, look up Stewart and Hall because they made a masterpiece.

What to do: You can enter this giveaway by leaving a comment below or sending me an e-mail answering this: when is the last time you visited your local library?  All you need is an e-mail address.  The giveaway ends next Tuesday evening at 9 P.M. Pacific Time (it’s running a few extra days because, well, I’m a few days behind schedule).  You can leave one entry every day.

To purchase this book: You can buy The Library through Amazon.com (that link uses my affiliate code) or locate a local retailer through Indie Bound.org.

In other news: Throughout the day, I will be sending e-mails to the winners of the book giveaways for the past several weeks.  If you’ve entered any of those contests, please keep your eyes peeled.


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  1. By beyond on April 15, 2011

    i love libraries.
    there are blissful periods i visit one of the manhattan libraries weekly or twice a month. but when i have no time, i often let months go between visits, mainly because of overdue fines, and library opening hours…

  2. By on April 15, 2011

    In my dreams, I’ve been there a few times this week b/c I have a late fine i need to go pay. It’s probably been 3 weeks and we’re truly “overdue” for a visit. Speaking of library books, do you know “Library Lion”? My daughter got it for her birthday and it’s fantastic.

  3. By on April 15, 2011

    I went on Tuesday. We are doing a year long project in my preschool class featuring different children’s authors. So I went to get books to feature for this month. I now need to go this weekend to get books to share with my son.

  4. By on April 15, 2011

    Sadly, I just got my first library card in ten years a little over a week ago!  Loving it already and can’t believe I let so much time go with visiting.  I can’t wait to take my lil’ man there!

  5. By Alicia S. on April 15, 2011

    We just went yesterday. I agree completely about the whole noise-be-damned theory. For a long time after I was able to quit my job to be home with the kids after our second was born I was afraid to take Matthew to the Story Times that other moms in the area were taking their kids to because, even though he’s loved books from a very young age, he isn’t the type to sit quietly on a rug with other kids around, and I was so afraid he’d disrupt everyone else’s experience. When I finally did, I was right. He was extremely disruptive… but in an awesome way! He’d ask to sit on the librarian’s lap while she read, or he’d yelp out questions about the character in the middle of the story. One time he got into a heated debate with the reader because in “I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas,” he didn’t believe her that the word said Hippopotamus instead of Hippo—and we had to leave because he wouldn’t let her go on.
    Some of the parents got annoyed sometimes, but I feel like that’s one of the things I know I’ve done right with him. And now, at only barely 3, he can read almost any 3 letter word you throw in front of him, and a wide variety of short sentences.

  6. By Laura Bishop on April 15, 2011

    Aiden and I visit the library at least once every two weeks to pick out new books for both of us and to go to storytime.

  7. By on April 15, 2011

    I go to the library at least twice a week. It’s right next door to my work so I walk over during my lunch hour. Not only do I pick up books we get free movie rentals. Our library as has culture passes so we can get free tickets to museums, the zoo and other fun places.

  8. By on April 15, 2011

    Just last week I went ot the library - it is within walking distance so it is the perfect spot to walk to and picnic afterwards in the park next door.

  9. By on April 15, 2011

    Sunday - it was our first true warm day of spring (finally!!!!!!) and my son and I took a long walk, stopping at the park, then the library. He played with their toys, then we resumed our walk home. It was lovely.

    BTW, I am the daughter of an elementary school librarian and sister of a public librarian - libraries are NOT suposed to be quiet places for kids and youth. It drives my sister nuts when people make that assumption!!! :) Yay for noisy kids in public libraries!

  10. By Molly on April 15, 2011

    We love the library…we haven’t been in a week or two because the weather here has actually been fabulous. We normally save the library for yucky days. I actually wrote a blog about the library a few weeks ago…http://littlestorieseverywhere.com/library/...Enjoy!

  11. By on April 15, 2011

    My son loves the library and asked to be taken every day!!he is obsessed at 20 months!!!

    Our library has a fab childrens section with cubes for seats toys tables for art pcs DVDs and of course loads and loads of books!!!

    Sadly in England lots of libraries are marked for closure :0(

  12. By Mailis on April 15, 2011

    Our “local” library is pretty far off the beaten path, but whenever I get the chance, Jude will experience the library and all it has to offer. I have loved libraries since I knew what a library was, and I want to pass that on to him.

    I have already caught him taking good whiffs of his books, and that makes my heart happy.

  13. By Stephanie @ Confessions of a Trophy Wife on April 15, 2011

    I love the library and we’re lucky enough to have a wonderful system.  I grew up going on a regular basis and I’ve always been an avid reader.  I’ve started teaching my 1yo son about my love of books now.  We go every Monday for storytime and I often go on my own in the evening once Daddy gets home to have a few quiet moments to pick out a few books!  Needless to say, we’re regulars at our library!

    The last time we went to our library was this past Monday!

    Thanks for the chance to win.

  14. By on April 15, 2011

    Sadly, we haven’t gone wince Wee One was born several months ago.  I am looking forward to this summer and walking!! (walking!!) to the library.  I grew up in rural areas and the one thing I am loving about suburbia is that I can walk to the library!

  15. By Jennifer W on April 15, 2011

    The last time I was at a library was a couple years ago. Bad, huh? I was invited to a book club meeting the next night and I wanted to have some idea of the book, so I went to the library and hunkered down for a couple hours. Funny thing, I was probably farther along in the book that 50% of the people.

  16. By Molly on April 15, 2011

    Hi Sarah!  I’m a longtime reader of your blog, mostly because the lovely book reviews drew me in.  As a public librarian, I *so* appreciate this post.  I think that libraries are more about community now too—that’s why our place offers classes and movie nights and job counseling and video gaming and crafting and all sorts of goodies for people of all ages.

    To answer your question, I visited my library today (and every day, haha)!

    Thanks for the library lovin!

    Molly

  17. By on April 15, 2011

    I have been taking my son to story time at our library since he was 6 months old (he’s 19mo now).  He loves it.  We go at least once a week.  I love to take him there and just let him roam, pulling books off shelves and discovering something familiar in the pages!

  18. By on April 15, 2011

    Oooh! I love that book!  I read it to my third graders every year when we study core democratic values.  It is PERFECT for talking about the common good.  We had David Small come visit our school a few years back and he was very generous and witty with the kids.  Good find :)  Have you read The Gardener?  Also illustrated by him.

  19. By Stephanie on April 15, 2011

    Love the library! When we lived in Oregon, we got to be such good friends with the storyteller librarians. I’m even FB friends with one of them!
    Our new local library is good too, but still haven’t connected with the librarirans yet.

    I was going to suggest Library Lion too, but Jenn beat me to it!

  20. By Tracy Roberts on April 15, 2011

    what about Book! Book! Book!, have I told you about that one?  We love it!

  21. By Stephanie on April 16, 2011

    YAY!!! Thank you again for contributing to Offbeat Mama. I knew you’d be perfect for Library Week. :)

  22. By Sam on April 16, 2011

    We are fortunate to have an excellent local library system. My son and I go once a week for Book Babies, a story hour for kids under 12 months. It’s so fun! We sing, play, and, of course, read books!

  23. By Jennifer W on April 18, 2011

    I actually went to the library about a year ago with my grandma…she loves that place. So does my mom. I wonder when the transition was made from libraries to book stores? I’ll have to make my way back to the library soon.

  24. By on April 18, 2011

    I don’t need a copy, I have one of my own given to me as a child. I just wanted to chime in to say this is my very favorite book (don’t mean to clog up the contest, please remove me if I do!) and I was so happy to see it reviewed on your blog! I’ve read this story to quite a few munchkins and to this day fail to keep my eyes dry past Elizabeth giving to the town all that was ever hers. A very tuned in five year old asked me if I was Elizabeth Brown once, I guess I should be flattered and give up dating once and for all.

    This is really a special treasure book for book lovers that not only charms older hearts but teaches a good lesson to the littler ones (big folks being no exception, though).


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