Would you live in a library if you could?

When I was a young mom and grad student with two little boys ages 5 and 3, I took them with me everywhere I could (sometimes even to classes I taught). We often visited public and university libraries, some with deep, dark basements, and others seven-stories high, for lengthy periods of time. My sons took to them like ducks to water and cheerfully called them the “book caves”.

That why I was struck by an NPR radio program months ago of a boy who lived in a library with his parents and is now a writer. (I borrow heavily from that story below.) Is there a correlation? You betcha!

Decades back, custodians in the New York Public Library system could live in the buildings with their families. Raymond Clark’s dad was a custodian, and their family lived on the top floor of the Washington Heights branch in upper Manhattan starting in 1949, when Ronald was fifteen. Later, in the 1970s, he raised his daughter, Jamilah, in the same apartment until she was five. He later told that grown daughter that being a library custodian was like being, “the keeper of the temple of knowledge.”

At first, Ronald was ashamed of his unusual home. But once the library closed for the day, he loved being the only kid in the building… “If I had any question about anything, I would get up in the middle of the night, go down, get out a book, (and) read until 3 o’clock in the morning . . . I began to realize how great I had it because the library gave me the thirst of learning—and this just never left me.”

Living in the library shaped the man he became. “He was the first in his family to graduate from high school”, and (to his dad’s delight) after college “got a position as a college professor. Read the full interview at https://www.npr.org/2017/10/13/557328529/how-living-in-a-library-gave-one-man-the-thirst-of-learning

Do you love books? Do they fuel you with wisdom and inspiration to take on limitless horizons? While you may not wish to actually live in one, please share the ways you surround yourself with books.

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