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Saturday, February 12, 2011

The power of a library card

Lisa Scottoline writes terrific mystery novels.  They are set in her hometown of Philadelphia and feature a group of women attorneys who, in the course of the stories, find out that they are tougher and more resourceful than they thought they were.

Lisa also writes essays that are her observations on her life and her family. The essays are published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Fortunately for those of us who are not regular readers of the PI, the essays have been compiled in two books.

I've just finished the second, My Nest Isn't Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space.  Along with stories about her five dogs and two cats, and her 86-year-old mother, and with contributions by her 24-year-old daughter Francesca, Lisa writes about libraries.

She remembers her childhood visits to the library.  She recalls that she figured out what the "best" books were by looking at the checkout cards. Those that had been checked out the most must be the best to read.   What stuck with her -- and struck a chord with me -- was the library card itself:  

It was the first piece of grown-up ID that I got, and it felt like a veritable ticket to adulthood.....It was small, stiff, and orange, and it bore my name in full.   Next to my name was a metal plate embossed with four numbers. I used to go home and press my finger against the numbers on the metal plate, which were freshly inked from my library trip. 

Believe it or not, my numbers were 3937.  How do I remember that, when I can't remember where I put my car keys? Simple.

Any memory lasts when it's linked with an emotion, and the library card meant the world to me.  Its message was clear:  I read, therefore I matter.

It gave me a identity as a reader. It told me that others valued what I valued....It's a powerful message, one that I got loud and clear. And it's a message that librarians and libraries give every day, without knowing it, to children and to adults everywhere around the world.

Thank you, Lisa!


  1. And thanks to you Nann for posting this column. I have read most of Lisa's books and enjoy them - nice to see another side of her!

  2. I will get the book and I could not agree more...library cards and the ability to use them make our world a better place. Sue in MI


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