In Celebration of Libraries

Brief musings on National Library Week

When I sat down to write this, I didn’t quite know what I wanted to write yet. I knew I wanted to address National Library Week. As a publishing professional, author, and book geek, libraries have always held a special, sacred place in my heart. I’m honestly not sure if you can be any of those three things without libraries having had a significant impact in your life at some point.

            Although my parents could afford to buy me books to add to my bookshelf and I frequently received books as gifts as a child, I still jumped at the chance to visit the library. It wasn’t my only access to books, but it still felt like this magical space. My childhood library was small. It almost looked like a house, if you weren’t paying attention driving by. In fact, in retrospect, it may have been just that—a house converted into a library. At school, the library was a safe haven. Not that I particularly needed one; I wasn’t constantly and actively bullied in the hallways or anything. But still, when books were involved, I knew I was going to come out on top—or nearly on top—even if it wasn’t a competition. When you are a chubby teacher’s pet kind of girl, you don’t win the “most popular” and you aren’t the gym class hero. But you can read. You can learn things. And once you know them, no one can take them from you.

            I suppose that is precisely why libraries are so important. In so many places in our world, it takes a great deal of privilege, money, and support to become educated. But with access to a library—and a good librarian—we are afforded the opportunity to educate ourselves. There are still many, many challenges for people in underserved communities, but libraries offer some degree of equalization.

            This week, on the Stems & Stories podcast, Bryan and I will be talking about National Library Week. Given that he’s a librarian, I feel like I should have created a special gift basket, celebrating his presence in my life and status as my favorite librarian. I haven’t done that (and I won’t, but I ordered us dinner from our favorite takeout place for this week, so that counts for something, right?) We’ll also be talking about seed libraries. Though National Library Week is exclusively celebrating the book variety of library, we realized that many folks don’t know about seed libraries, so we opted to include that as our “stems” portion of the chat.

            Like book libraries, seed libraries aim to collect, educate, and make things available to a general population of people. Some seed libraries focus specific kinds of seeds (like the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network) and others are generic community resources with any combination of starter seeds (like Little Free Seed Libraries, akin to their book counterparts).

            I won’t turn this post into a diatribe about the importance of libraries for two reasons. One, far more eloquent people than me have spent far more time putting that sentiment onto paper, and I wouldn’t be doing much besides echoing what they have said. (See “Art Matters” by Neil Gaiman, which includes a section titled “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming.”) Secondly, if you don’t agree that libraries matter, you’re on the wrong post on the wrong blog reading the wrong writer’s words. (If you ever do find a writer to read that doesn’t believe libraries are extremely important, please do send them my way for a verbal lashing.)

            So suffice to say, libraries matter. Libraries—of all kinds—are magical, wonderful places. We hope you’ll join us on this month’s episode of Stems & Stories. If you are interested in learning more about the American Library Association’s plans for National Library Week, check out its website. If you want to hear more about seed libraries and the rad role both kinds of libraries play in our world, follow @StemsandStories on all major social platforms and your favorite streaming service.*

*S&S is presently available on Spotify and Apple Music. Listen to podcasts elsewhere? Let us know where you’d like to listen to us ramble about books and botanical things in the comments, and we’ll do our best to stream to that platform as well!

-hrg

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