In Charlotte, NC, we had an original Carnegie Library when I was growing up. I loved the building and all the books. Browsing shelves in libraries has always been one of my favorite things to do. But as happy as I was wandering through the stacks on my own, I learned at an early age that librarians knew secrets—secrets that led me to just the right book.
When it comes to finding things in a library, I have always been Dewey Decimal System challenged—and today—with the mysteries of computer catalogs I rely on the skills of the wonderful librarians working at the information desk. They know tricks for finding things I can only dream of knowing.
Since 1970 the Chevy Chase Library has been my library. I go there for books, information and research help. Last week, I stopped by for the latter on a story I am working on.
“Could you please help me find an 'old' memoir of an author I am researching?”
Molly Borders, the librarian on duty at the information desk, nodded and started tapping my information into her computer. After some minutes of searching she shook her head sadly. “We don’t have it in our system but the DC Library does. You can go to the Chevy Chase DC Library and they could order it for you from downtown.”
“Thanks for the lead.” Starting to leave I remembered something else. “Is there any chance you have a copy of Our Heart Were Young and Gay?”
There was actually a twinkle in her eyes as a smile spread across her face. “We do. Lets see if it is 'in.' " A few taps on her keyboard and then she sped away, returning quickly—triumphantly waving a paper-back copy of the book I read when I was about 11 years old—and never forgot.
“I am so glad you asked for this book. When some people thought it was too tattered and torn plus being old and dated I fought to keep it in the system.”
We shared stories of how each of us had been captivated by the rollicking mis-adventures of two young women, new college grads, traveling alone to Europe for the first time in the 1920s. Author Cornelia Otis Skinner’s vivid language and colorful descriptions caught our imaginations and transported us to another world. Skinner filled our heads with visions of traveling to exciting places…and making it through.
When I noticed the pristine copy she handed me she told me it was a new reprint. Laughing a bit she told me that when the tattered copy landed on the library sale table she bought it for 25 cents. “I have it at home.” At that we laughed together.
This is a woman after my own heart.
Twenty minutes later, I was sipping a latte at Starbucks, book open in front of me, happily rejoining Cornelia Otis Skinner and her friend Emily Kimbrough as they planned their first “crossing.”
Saluting librarians everywhere—especially Molly Borders at the Chevy Chase Library—who love books and share information. And, sometimes help to create a story.