I have been doing research over the past month for three separate short history books. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time in libraries—and reminding myself how much I love prowling stacks of books, even in the computer age. I can find more and more of what I need online, and I certainly save lots of time doing research that way. Still, there’s nothing like roaming the stacks in a library and being surprised by a title that’s just what I need, even though it didn’t turn up in my Google search.
Different libraries have different personalities, too. The Newark library is open and welcoming—a great place to set up my computer for a couple of hours when I get tired of staring at the same four walls in my home office. Same goes for the Kirkwood library.
Morris Library at the University of Delaware gives off a distinctly different vibe. With its floors and floors and rows and rows of books, it’s more imposing and less homelike. But I love being able to peruse dozens of different books about the Gold Rush or the Civil War to find just the right facts and quotes to make my books come alive. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt, except that there’s no prescribed set of materials to gather.
A recent study by Scholastic indicates that nearly two out of three kids agree that they will always want to read books in print form even though there are ebooks available. I think that’s wonderful. There is something special about the look, the feel, and even the aroma of books in a bookstore or library. And there’s a special kind of magic to be found in wandering the stacks of a library that just can’t be replicated when scrolling down the pages of an electronic search.
I loved libraries as a child. I love them as an adult as a tool for my writing. I’m sure I’ll continue to love them when I retire and am once again, as I was in childhood, simply looking for a “good read.”