A woman stops in my library — new to town and looking for basic info about an internet connection and where to buy food. She’s getting the lay of this corner of Vermont’s territory. Early afternoon, the school kids are paired up around the library, working on projects — some seriously, some intently goofing off.
It’s drab November, and the woman stays for a long while, using the library’s internet connection. Her friend calls the library and arranges to meet in the parking lot, exchanging a microwave. School morphs into after school by then, and the kids merge back into the library. A parent takes three crying girls aside and demands the drama to cease. A little boy chats with the woman in the library who pauses in her work and answers his questions. The kids pull out their newest craze — the chess sets.
Through all this, I keep introducing the woman to anyone who comes in the door.
When I leave at 5 p.m., darkness folds around the library. The woman has left with an armful of books; the children have all gone home. A few adults are picking up yet.
I turn down the heat in this library — a kind of living room lined with books. Then I head home myself.
The library might have been the first place I was ever given autonomy. Even when I was maybe four or five years old, I was allowed to head off on my own.
— Susan Orlean, The Library Book