by Susan OrleansThe Library Book by Susan Orlean

I am not a regular reader of non-fiction, so when it was recommended to me I wasn’t in a rush to read this book.  It was described as the story of the 1987 fire in the Los Angeles library. After I started reading it, I quickly realized this book was so much more:  a mystery about who set the fire; a detailed description of how to rescue books and rebuild the library after the fire; a history lesson about Los Angeles and the evolution of the library and most important to me, a love story about libraries and the role they play in our lives.  The author shared that her contact with libraries began with visits to the local library with her mother. She described her mother as a lover of reading who believed in “borrowing” books vs “buying” them. On their regular trips to the library, they enter and split up and each head to their favorite section.  Orleans wrote, “The library might have been the first place I was ever allowed autonomy.”  That sentence hooked me into this book because the author’s stories reminded me of my own experiences with libraries throughout my life. Orleans does a wonderful job examining the various parts of library operation and enthusiastically describes all aspects of programming available in the LA library. Many components which she celebrates are found in our beloved community library:  art exhibits, craft displays, activities for seniors, community meeting space, children’s programming, community programming, access to technology, antique book section, participation by the local garden club, sculptures on display and more.  After reading the book, I have fresh appreciation for our staff who are always looking for ways they can SERVE the community. This is a book that can be enjoyed by history buffs and by those who enjoy good storytelling.