The Center of the World - In the opening scene of the movie The Mystical Masseur, the pundit and main character wanders through the library at Oxford excitedly and animatedly proclaiming it "...the center of the world. It all begins here..it all leads back to here." My sentiments exactly.
If I close my eyes, it is the mid-1970s and I am a nine-year-old bookish child scaling the wide steps of the antebellum mansion that serves my small, north Georgia hometown as the Robert Loveman Memorial Library. Once inside, a quick right turn leads to the room housing the children's collection. The slightly musty, ink and leathery smell is like no other. I have traveled the world, but no adventure was any greater or any more exciting than those discoveries I found in books in that cool respite from a hot Georgia summer. In fact, many of my later studies and travels were to places I first explored in library books.
Reading begets writers, I'm convinced. Those who love the written word become inspired to put their own thoughts down for the pure satisfaction and for the inspection of others. The library is a second home - a place where shelf after shelf beckons. Mornings and afternoons can be spent browsing, exploring and uncovering hidden gems. Writer's block? No problem. The library inspires.
Journalism became my major in college, and writing my avocation. My first book has been published, and a second is in progress. I write something almost every day, and I read voraciously. I still love going to the library.
For me, the library was also my link to the past. I have always loved history. Growing up in the South, in a town where a statue of Confederate General Joseph Johnston anchors the downtown, the War Between the States was never far removed. Having a library in a historical home with big magnolia trees on either side of the front steps and the big, wide front porch facilitated the feeling of stepping back in time when you entered. The huge mahogany librarian's desk was just inside the door, tucked at the foot of a sweeping staircase. The place could have served as a movie set for Gone With the Wind. It somehow wouldn't seem unusual to look over and spot Scarlett O'Hara perusing the collection. Perhaps that is why I so value libraries as repositories of the past. Archives, yellowed newspaper clippings, first editions and old photos abound. Special collections, painstakingly gathered and lovingly protected, include local history and are at your fingertips for in-depth research. The value as a community's link to its particular history cannot be overstated. The internet is useful, but the library is local.
Who can forget the joy as a parent of introducing your own children to the wonder of books? My children love to read just as much as I did as a child. The library is an oft-requested destination, and we are always among the first to sign up for the summer reading program. Watching them select books that interest them amazes me. I love their explanations when asked why they chose a certain book - it could have been the cover, the author or the subject matter that reeled them in. They're hooked - and I'm thankful.
Libraries are also community centers. Most offer lectures, author and illustrator visits, preschool reading hours and book clubs. People unite and find others with common interests at libraries. Writers tend to be solitary beings, and going to the library at least forces one into a little bit of social contact. You do have to speak to the librarian when you check materials out, after all.
The library is magic. It is a parent's joy, a writer's best friend, and a reader's paradise. Wander through the stacks discovering dreams, soaking up the magic by osmosis. Get thee to a library - today. Find your way to the center of the world. It just might change your life.