WASHINGTON, D.C.—I am in town for the American Library Association’s annual conference. Imagine: fifty gazillion librarians, mostly women, wearing tennis shoes, pearls, and smiles.
Did I say fifty gazillion? Let’s make it five hundred gazillion.
I met an old woman from Kansas. She is a librarian in a small town of two hundred. I met a librarian from Martha’s Vineyard, one from Key West, a few from Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Lexington, Las Vegas, Sheboygan.
I met a guy from Morgantown, West Virginia, the hometown of Don Knotts. I met a woman from Andy Griffith’s hometown, in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
It was a busy day. I shook hands, hugged necks, and in a few cases, kissed librarians from every state in the U.S., including Alaska, and Hawaii.
Also, some from Shanghai, Puerto Rico, Iran, Montpellier, Moscow, Greenland, Sydney, South Africa, and one from Auburn University.
I have history with librarians. I was a seventh-grader when I dropped out of school, after my father’s suicide. My family’s life went down the
At some point during my youth, I started visiting the library. And I visited a lot.
The library was a dilapidated building. It smelled like mildew and old paper. It had floor heaters, mouse traps in the corners, and a bathroom not quite big enough to hold a representative of the Lollipop Guild.
The librarian was a slight, elderly woman who wore tennis shoes and pearls. She would often find me wandering the aisles and ask what book I was looking for.
She knew who I was. And she knew about my educational failures.
“I don’t know which book I want,” I would often reply.
One day, she handed me the book Lonesome Dove.
“Do you like cowboys?” she asked.
“You’ll like this,” she went on. “I’d bet money on it.”