Libraries call my name wherever I travel. Our forefathers speak their history and literature-what mattered most, why they invested their means and talents to build a house of books and letters for posterity.
I recall the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. Weeks after 9/11, my daughter Kelly and I walked cobbled streets to the Library’s Long Room built between 1712 and 1732.
Marble busts of Irish philosophers and writers the likes of Jonathan Swift lined the length of shelves bearing 200,000 of the library’s oldest tomes. Shakespeare amongst them.
A stunning sight indeed.
After our stroll through the Long Room, Kelly and I stood side-by-side before the
exhibit of the Book of Kells, illuminated illustrations of the Gospels dated 800 AD.
A twenty-first century woman of Celtic ancestry, I couldn’t fathom the brilliance, devotion, and resourcefulness of the ancients. I considered the artwork and calligraphy in silence.
Sometimes, the holiness of beauty and story holds you speechless.
Years later, the Book of Kells came to mind when I first laid eyes upon Frederick Wiley’s illuminated painted windows in the Detroit Public Library on Woodward Avenue.
There I also learned about documents preserved in the building’s vaults and stacks: French licenses of voyageurs from the 1700s, and Grace Bedell’s iconic letter written at age eleven to Abraham Lincoln, for example. Grace suggested Mr. Lincoln grow whiskers to encourage men to vote for him.
Toting my first novel to forty libraries within a fifty-mile radius last spring, I observed each public library possesses its own personality, inside and out.
Although I admire the magnificence of a grand structure, my local Addison Township Library is where my affection rests. Humble and friendly, the library’s Director, Jaema Berman, and her staff know my name. I know theirs. We thrive on learning and making history with every page we turn.
We’re in the midst of fundraising for a new building. To be part of this growth brings hope for our future. As our ancestors, we’re firm believers in the durable lifespan of books.
As is Kay Hurd, Director of the Henry Stephens Memorial Library in Almont. I stopped in the charming library last week with a copy of The Mantle, my novel.
“We promote local authors and would love your book.” Kay said.
In a brief tour, she stopped before a display case memorializing Henry Stephens. “This is our library’s patron,” Kay said.
Born in Dublin in 1823, Henry immigrated to Almont where he settled and made his fortune as a lumberman, merchant and financier.
I followed Kay to the basement where they keep their microfiche reader machine. “The library began recording Almont newspapers in 1886. We have almost every issue published,” she said.
This means much
of the Tri-City area’s history remains conserved—a library within a library.
Dear Reader, I imagine this mattered to Henry Stephens. Perhaps the Dubliner walked the Long Room in Trinity Library before he sailed for America.
Perhaps he paused before the illuminated pages of the Book of Kells, envisioned a library where the librarians know your name.
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