I’ve had some very special library experiences over the last few weeks, which inspired me to think about the importance of libraries in my life, overall.

As a kid, the library was a haven for me. Our neighborhood branch was less than a mile from our house. On Saturdays, I’d ride my bike there and look at books, feel books, and yes, smell books. Admittedly, I still do that, and my husband thinks it’s very strange. But I don’t care. I like the smell of books. I remember enjoying the ever-reliable organization of the card catalog. The colorful array of spines, straight and tall, beckoning me to pluck titles from the shelves. The library allowed me to escape the noise and chaos of home, where eight other people lived. To me, the library was peaceful.

As an adult writer, I rely heavily on libraries for research, mentor texts, and a warm, welcoming environment in which to work. I love my local (Victor/Farmington) library and staff, who are always at the ready with a smile and a helping hand. But I confess: I am a library hopper. Sometimes, I need to get out of my own way at home and change up my scenery, so I’ll pick a random library and write for a few hours. Libraries remain a peaceful haven for me.

Since the publication of my new picture book, Hosea Plays On, I have come to embrace libraries in a whole new way. Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading my book at story-times in Victor (thank you, Krystina Dippel) and Mendon (thank you, Kelly Paganelli). I’ve also read at bookstores: Hipocampo Children’s Books and Barnes & Noble. In all of these places, I connected with young- and young-at-heart readers. At one of the libraries, a toddler walked up to my poster of Hosea and put his face right up to his. The two looked like they were having a conversation. Pure joy!

Last week, I had a library experience that could prove to be once-in-a-lifetime. Thanks to Arnett Librarian Bruce Tehan, John DeMott, and the Nate Rawls Band, I got to read Hosea Plays On at Arnett Branch Library–to a room full of readers, many of whom knew Hosea Taylor. They shared stories of Hosea. There was music, including some of the tunes Hosea loved, a delectable spread of food, and again…pure joy, though mixed with the sadness of the reason we were there—Hosea Taylor is no longer with us. But in many ways, he is. He was and is special to our community. And our community is special, thanks in no small part to his gift for connecting with people. And now, he has given this gift of connection to me. In essence, it might have seemed that my book brought that group together—but we know who was really responsible, don’t we?

Libraries provide books, an escape, a community, and connection. I’m grateful for (all of) mine!