Whispers: An Ode to Small Town Libraries

Do you frequent small town libraries? I grew up in a town with one of those unique establishments. For an avid reader, there is no place comparable to the quiet, friendly atmosphere in which to enter a world of your choosing, and drift away.

I have been fortunate to go back to my roots and visit several East Texas small town libraries for book signings and author appearances. It takes my breath away as I sit among the books, talk to the wonderful people who are lucky enough to work there, and remember the sanctuary it provided in my childhood.

My earliest memories are of a time I lived close enough to walk and escape into that world. This particular library had a reading area. Now, I don’t mean a table with a row of chairs and other people side by side. No, this library had ‘pockets’, if you will. Small corner niches enriched by overstuffed chairs, colorful rugs, beautiful green plants, and pillows of many colors. I’d hold my breath, hoping there would be one open that I could crawl into and hide for a while. Most of the time, fortune smiled upon me.

I would take my time in choosing the world I wanted to visit that day. I was tiny …  skinny, short, tousled blonde hair. The librarian would smile at me and point to a section where new books had been delivered. She knew I had read almost everything in the building. I’d stand in front of the rows, and one by one, scan the titles until I found one of interest. I’d pull it out and thumb through the first few pages. When I was young, it was the whispers from the pages that attracted me. I could hear the character speaking, imagine what they looked like, how they sounded. Clutched tightly in my hands, I’d hurry to one of the reading cozies, settle in, and listen to and imagine this new world I discovered.

These memories come rushing back as I travel throughout my area and visit these gems of culture, protected by people who love these magical places, who recognize a child’s imagination can be sparked by the atmosphere there. Oh, but sadly, they are disappearing. Progress pushes them aside, for bigger and better buildings, more technology, and to accommodate more people. Don’t get me wrong, I love progress, but sometimes, in a few places, stop to visit a small town library and find the magic that resides there. These are special people who devote their time and efforts in preserving one of America’s favorite pastimes.

I write historical romantic fiction, mystery and suspense. One of the last libraries I was fortunate to be invited to bought my book to put on their shelves. The lovely woman who helped organize the event wrote me a note later, a personal handwritten note, to thank me for coming. She also said, I’ve been trying to read your book, but it keeps getting checked out. I had to smile, it was music to my ears.

The next time you pass a small library, stop, and go inside. You may just find a little magic.

Patty Wiseman is author of An Unlikely Arrangement

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