Chad Grayson

Places of Refuge

I put librarian in my tag line mostly as a joke. I do not have a degree in library science, but I do work at a library, and do most of the things librarians do. And I spend a lot of time in libraries even when I’m not working. At least three days a week I go to the big library in nearby Redding, CA to write my daily 1000 words. I write the rest of the time in my home office, but I love writing in the library. I always feel inspired when I am sitting in the middle of thousands of books, and the environment is calm, but there’s just enough going on around me that it bleeds out the rest of the internal distraction my non-neurotypical brain tries to create for itself (I cannot work in complete silence, that’s toxic).

My favorite place to go as a kid was the library in downtown Crawfordsville, Indiana, where I grew up. They didn’t have the rule some libraries these days have, where kids are limited to the kids section. So here was where I was exposed to writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Jordan, Poul Anderson, Barbara Hambly, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough. It was a dream of mine that someday I would write books that would end up in a library.

So, today I donated copies of my first novel, All the Promised Stars, to the library where I work and to the Shasta County Libraries. I told the ladies that it really belonged in the Redding branch because about three quarters of it was written at a table upstairs. I realize this is kind of cheating, donating the book myself, but I don’t really care. The book will be on the shelves, just like any other book.

When I was a child the libraries downtown and at school were my safe space. I could always go there when people were tormenting me, as they do when you’re a child who doesn’t really fit it. I felt like I belonged there. And then, in 2009, after my teaching career had ended and I felt like I could do nothing and was accomplishing less, working at the Cottonwood Community Library gave me a place to feel like I could contribute to society again, a place where I actually felt like I was doing more for the community that converting oxygen to carbon dioxide. As libraries had been places of refuge when I was a child, this library was a place of refuge to me as an adult.

There are a lot of people who don’t think libraries have a place anymore. And indeed, if this was a concept we were just starting to get off the ground now, people would talk about what a liberal scam they are. But I think a library is the heart of a community. At our library one of our major jobs is connecting people with the resources they need to live their lives. People come in who need housing, or unemployment benefits, or to connect with social security. Most of these things require online sign-ups these days and a lot of people in our rural community do not have high-speed internet at home. The other day a man came in who couldn’t read or write, but needed to connect with someone who could help him find a place to live. I’m not sure where else I would send him for help, if it wasn’t for the library. And, of course, we also check out books.

So, I will defend libraries as long as I am able to. They are important. They fill a need. They are places of refuge in a chaotic world, and I would not be who I am without them.

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