The people with their heads down studying at the table in the back.
The group of teens chatting and laughing on the couchs.
The older woman who glares at the group of teens.
The 5 year old boy who doesn't understand the phrase, 'inside voice'.
Countless others milling about perusing the books on display.
There's so many different sorts of people at a public library, which is one of the countless reasons why I love them so much. Generally, everyone keeps to themselves, wandering the aisles or flipping through books. And in a world of constant noise and movement, I think people crave the hushed calm of the library. When I walk into a library, and the sound of my shoes squeaking on the floor suddenly becomes deafening to me, there's an instant connection I feel with my fellow patrons. It's the same feeling I get when I ride public transit. Even though we may have different backgrounds and values and we may even be coming to the library for completely different reasons, for a brief window of time, we are part of a small community of people, quietly living their lives together.
I never feel that connection stronger than when I borrow library books.
A few weeks ago, I borrowed a book from the library that I heard about years ago called 'Letters To A Young Poet'. The book is, in fact that, letters to a young poet. A fledging poet had written to a more established poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, whom he admired. The book is a collection of the letters Rilke wrote in response to the rookie. It's a small book but knowing that it was written in the early 1900's and translated from German, I guessed that it might not be the easiest read for me. It would be, when I finished it, somewhat of a personal accomplishment. I searched and searched and finally spotted the skinny white spine of my desired book. I signed it out and walked out to my car, eager to get home and start reading. To my delight, when I finally settling down to start reading, I discovered the book's previous reader has written small notes in a number of the margins. The notes were carefully written in pencil and often included a circle around a portion of text that the note taker wanted to pay special attention to. Now, not only am I reading the correspondance of two poets, I also get to read the thoughts of a stranger. I get to see what inspired someone else to read this book. The graffiti scrawled in the margins had suddenly connected me to a person I would never meet.
Library books connect countless strangers. As we share them they change hands, coming into our lives at different times and for different reasons. They allow you 3 weeks to immerse yourself in a story and connect yourself with that book. Books that we love become a part of our lives, a part of our journey. The beauty of library books is that we get to be a part of their journey as well.