We Love The Library So Much: 13 Autostraddle Writers On Their Favorite Libraries

You already know that books are really great. And you already know that libraries are where you can get books for free, which is why you may have raised an eyebrow at the recent fuss over the idea of “Netflix for books.” As important as free books are, however, they offer us more than that; libraries offer free access to knowledge, and knowledge is power. For queer and trans women, libraries gave some of us the chance to know something about ourselves — reading fiction or nonfiction about queer people without our parents around, or using the internet anonymously to figure out whether we really were the only one in the whole world who felt this way. Technically, National Library Week has passed, but is there ever a bad time to talk about how much libraries mean to us? No, no there isn’t.

via yelp

via yelp

Mey, Contributing Editor

I was absolutely obsessed with my library in high school. My junior and senior years I had a free period, and the Marshall Public Library was about two blocks away from my school. Every day I would walk over there for an hour and read. And it’s not just that I was able to spend an hour reading, but that I was able to spend that hour reading queer books. In those two years I read Annie on My Mind, Luna, Myra Breckinridge, Keeping You a Secret, Middlesex, Misfortune: A Novel, What Happened to Lani Garver, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, which were all the fiction books about queer or trans women, or that were close enough to catch my interest, that I could find at my library. Now, not all of these books were that great, but having this place at the library where I could go every day and disappear into worlds full of people who were living out the life that I wished I had was a lifesaver for me. At that point in my life I was deep in the closet and far, far too nervous and afraid to bring these books home or to even read about queer or trans women on my computer at home, but there at the library I was able to grab a book, sit at a table, and read all about girls my age who dated other girls, boys my age who wore girl’s clothes, and trans girls my age who had the courage to be themselves.

Jones Library via flickr

Jones Library via flickr

Lizz, Fashion Editor

When I was in first grade I was in an accident and sustained injuries such that I was in a body cast. Now, the messy details of all that aren’t that important, but what is important is that it was just before summer break. That’s right: a whole summer in a body cast. So what’s a nerdy little 1st grader to do all summer sweating and itching like crazy? Read. A lot. My savior that summer was the Jones Library in Amherst, MA and their summer reading competition. Basically you tracked how many books you read during the summer and wrote a report or draw a picture about each one. My mom would drive me over to the library and take me to the children’s library room to track my book progress. They had a paper tree cut out on one of the walls. Each child participating had a branch on which to tack their latest drawing or book report. It was my single-minded goal that summer to read as many books as possible, draw a ton of pictures and win that competition. I think I needed a place where it was okay for my weird casted body to be, and a way to let my mind escape. I tore through that children’s section. Looking back I can’t remember how many books I read or if I won or if, for that matter, there even was a winner. Still, that summer set me on a path that would lead to many more years of hiding out in the Jones Library; nose in a book, head in the clouds.

Chelsey, Editorial Assistant

My first memory is walking through the Argyle Branch of the Jacksonville Public Library that my mom used to take me to when I was three years old. I don’t know if first memories are like this for everyone, or if this is just me, but in that memory the library was massive and ephemeral, almost. The ceilings stretched on forever, it seemed, and there were more books than my tiny mind could ever imagine being able to read. We used to go there once a week for this library play group I was involved with. As an incredibly shy child, I would attempt to meet other children my age, but instead usually end up wandering over to the display of children’s books and sitting in a corner, looking at the pictures and dreaming of the day when the lines would translate themselves into words that could take me away from my little world into something much grander. That first memory for me invokes a feeling of discovery and wonder, my first foray into the remembrance of this brave new world I was charting, and thus libraries always have been my safe haven, a place where the terrifying aspects of the world were muted. After my mom died in 2011, the only place where I could begin to process how to construct a world that she wasn’t a central aspect of was my university library. It wasn’t a magnificent library by any stretch of the imagination, nothing close to the library of my first memory, but it was multiple floors and I could get myself lost in the books like I used to when I was three and transport myself to worlds where things were either much simpler, or much darker, than my own.

Ottawa Public Library

Ottawa Public Library

Carolyn, NSFW Editor

I don’t have a formative childhood library experience, because even though I was very much the kind of kid to want to go to the library all the time (free books! all the books!), my parents weren’t keen on me reading to the exclusion of all other activities, and so I only had limited visits. (Twenty books, and not forty. Once a week or so, and not every day. I was deprived.) My most formative library awakening was actually a few years ago, when I moved to a city I turned out to hate and discovered that the Ottawa Public Library was just the best. It got the best books, defined as “new books I wanted to read,” before they were even out in some cases. It had multiple locations and would bring you things your main location didn’t have. It seemed to have a ton of whatever I wanted to read in the moment, regardless of how strange whatever I wanted to read in the moment was. I had had a few years of not really reading much and not really trying new books, and that library rekindled my sense of adventure in the best way.

Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, via

Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, via

Laura M, Contributing Editor

In college, my not-yet-girlfriend and I wrote a story for our school magazine about ties between our college and the CIA from the ’80s to early ’90s. Very few documents from the time had been digitized, so she and I spent a lot of time poring over microfiche in the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. I’m pretty sure microfilm technology is only used in libraries and museums, and I sort of love how inefficient and persnickety it is; it makes it feel like a huge accomplishment when you eventually manage to find what you’re looking for. Plus, it’s a good excuse to spend lots of time excitedly shout-whispering with a cute girl in a library.

Cara, Contributing Editor

I’m not too easily distractible, but books can do it. If I’m a cat, flushed out from under the couch by almost nothing, they’re my dangling string. It’s a problem. My senior year at Amherst College, I spent a lot of time hopping from venue to venue trying to find the best place to work on my thesis, an activity that often took up a large chunk of my thesis-working time. Most of my friends just used one of the twelve billion libraries on campus, but because of my crippling book curiosity, I could not. Then one day I somehow wandered into this amazing place: cozy, with calm lighting, warm wood, and a scholarly tone, and packed with books that, try as I might, I could not read, because they were full of inscrutable symbols. It was the Olds Math Library! All of the atmosphere, none of the distraction. I wrote my whole thesis there.

Speer Memorial Library

Speer Memorial Library via Mission Texas

Yvonne, Associate Editor

As a kid, I lived a good 15-minute drive from town. I also grew up not having cable, neighborhood friends or fast internet, so it forced me to use my imagination to entertain myself, usually with books.

I cherished the times my mom would take my brother and I to Speer Memorial Library, one of the oldest library in the Rio Grande Valley, to check out books to keep us busy during the summer. For a brown, nerdy bookworm kid like me, the library was an oasis in a city that devalued education. As a kid, Speer Memorial didn’t have much going on besides having books but that’s all I needed. I was always an advanced reader so I probably read their entire YA novel section by middle school.

When I was in high school, Speer Memorial had gone through some changes — and so did I. The library got a $3.5 million facelift and I started liking my best friend. The library renovations added a whole lot of square footage that made way for study rooms, group meeting rooms, a snack lounge and more room for new audio visual materials, books, computers, etc. The library became a place where my two best friends and I would congregate to do homework but really all we did was just laugh and hang out. One of these best friends became my first girlfriend and the library transformed yet agin. It was where we would check out vintage movies to watch later in my room and where we would make out in the parking lot in my car.

A few years later, the library was where I last saw her. I apologized profusely for what I had done almost a year ago, expecting closure but it didn’t happen. We parted ways.

Next page: Laneia, Maddie, Maggie, Rachel, Intern Liz, Audrey and Riese!

Laneia, Executive Editor

All of my best library memories are from any time before high school and I’m realizing now that the beauty of grade school libraries had a lot to do with the freedom inside them that you didn’t really get anywhere else. It felt like it belonged to us as much as the playground did. Early on I remember crying when our elementary school librarian, Mrs Page (so fitting), read The Velveteen Rabbit, because I’d never heard it before and I was shattered. She smiled and gave my stupid little heaving shoulders a squeeze when it was over and then suggested I check out something by Shel Silverstein. “Anything but The Giving Tree!” She was right, obviously, and she’d later introduce me to a biography on Louisa May Alcott, which kickstarted a lifetime obsession with biographies, especially the ancient copies we had at our library. I’d camp out in the corner of that section like it was my own room, usually reading the first third of the book before I’d even checked it out. And I could take up that kind of space in the biography section because no one else ever came over there, unless we had a history project.

My mom worked at the courthouse across the street from our local library, so for a couple of years it served as my very quiet, very entertaining weekday afternoon babysitter. I felt so at home at the three libraries I’d grown up in, that I was really shocked and sad when I moved to a much larger city in Florida and ended up terrified of the libraries there. I only went once during my first two years because that place was so intimidating! It had an upstairs, an electronic card catalog that I had no idea how to use, and it was so sprawling that I couldn’t figure out where anything was. I didn’t bring myself to go back until sometime around when Slade was potty trained.

Remember when you had to sign the borrowing card in the back of the book, but not before you’d read all the other names and marveled at the very first date listed? Has everyone else already said this? I miss those cards.

Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College

Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College

Maddie, Contributing Editor

I’ll have spent hours in the Vassar Library when suddenly I’ll look up and see someone disappear into a staircase and I’ll think to myself holy shit I can’t believe this is a place I get to be. The Vassar Library is one of those places that always makes the Buzzfeed list of “5 Best Libraries You Need to Pretend You’re Harry Potter In Before You Die” or whatever. It’s beautiful. Like really really beautiful. From the outside, it looks like a sort of benevolent gothic castle, and when it’s nice out, you can sit on the lawn in front of it and it just sort of smiles at you, in a you should be doing work inside of me kind of way. But it’s patient. You’ll eventually go inside, and be embraced by its stained glass, secret staircases, creaky chairs, and some pretty epic bathroom graffiti. I love the Vassar library, and as I am about to graduate, I am starting to feel incredibly nostalgic about it. The library here has been a place of solitude, where I’ve sat alone for long weekend days writing out papers left to the last minute, or spent hours pouring over the gender studies section in basement room 49. It’s also been an incredible place of community and love. I have amazing memories of staking out tables and study rooms with friends and spending long dark winter evenings writing back to back to back final papers together, every so often distracting each other with youtube videos and snacks, or adventures into forbidden corridors. There was also that one time we had a seriously epic dance party in a seminar room and probably it disturbed a lot of people even though the door was closed – SORRY. Vassar Library, it’s been real.

via yale63

via yale63

Maggie, “Dear Queer Diary”

When I was in college, a girl kissed me in a parking garage. Her hair smelled like Pantene, that most intoxicating of shampoos, and before I knew it, we were dating. Given that I had barely even contemplated the possibility of my own queerness before the few days immediately preceding that fateful parking garage kiss, I had a lot of questions.

The internet, which was the first port of call in my voyage of lesbian self-discovery, was too intimidating. I was terrified by the GIFs of long-haired women in various explicit poses that came up when I searched “lesbian” on Tumblr, and I was still several long and desperate months away from finding Autostraddle.com.

So I turned to the place that had always had answers for me—the place where I felt safe amidst books and shelves and the smell of dust—the place where, as a college senior engrossed in writing a bevy of long papers on English literature, I already spent most of my time anyway.

The stacks of my college library were lovely, dark and deep, so before venturing into their hallowed shelves, I assembled a short list of literary works that I might look for. I wish I could remember the exact string of searches that led me to Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue, but somehow or other, I ended up at the end of a long row somewhere on the third or fourth floor holding a small, black fabric-bound volume. Even before I read beyond the first few pages, I knew this book would not contain all the answers to my questions, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t happy to have it.

My favorite thing about the stacks was always the stillness—the pervading chill and darkness that lingered no matter how many light switches you flipped on the way to what you were looking for. When you’ve just kissed a girl for the first time, it seems like things are changing about as fast as those lights flip on and off, so it’s nice to have some things that you can count on. If those things include cool quiet corners and four million volumes housed on sixteen floors of bookshelves, I guess you are pretty lucky.

Boxford Town Library in Boxford, Massachusetts

Boxford Town Library via Facebook

Rachel, Senior Editor

I basically came into the world via being found under a cabbage leaf in a library. Specifically, the East Boxford Library in the tiny town that I grew up in. I rode my bike there with my brother when I was a young kid; I volunteered there stamping due dates when I was 10; I worked there as an employee (“checkout desk assistant,” I believe was my title) when I was in high school. My relationship with that library lasted longer than my relationships with most people. I met incredible people there — my 65-year-old coworker who came to work at the checkout desk every day despite tragic deaths in her family, and even found time to teach me a short-row technique for knitting socks. Bill, the elderly man who biked to the library every day, a rearview mirror clipped to the side of his helmet. Maybe more importantly, though, I got to understand the anatomy of the person that was the library itself.

How books flowed in and out like blood in the arms of people I knew; how it formed a sort of cerebral cortex when it housed readings, book signings, educational events for kids. How in a lot of ways, the library was the heart of the town itself — especially for people who were poor or otherwise marginalized. I watched people use our computers to search for jobs, or find information about the homes they had emigrated away from. We provided information on taxes, voting, and more to people who didn’t know how to figure them out any other way.

Today, I still feel like a small-town public library was one of the most important things I’ve ever been a part of — and when I hear news from my hometown about funding cuts or referendums to divert funding, I get worried. It’s easy for people who have internet access and Spotify and Amazon Prime and disposable income to feel uninvested in public libraries, because they don’t need them. But knowledge (and culture, in the form of books and music and films), especially basic knowledge about the world we live in, shouldn’t be accessible only to those who can afford it, and I’m proud that my public library was a force for good in keeping that from happening.

Emma Clark Memorial Library via ark shelving

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket, NY via ark shelving

Intern Liz

I’ve always loved libraries, and I’ve always had very fond memories of my local library growing up. When I saw Arthur and friends get library cards, I was super excited to get my one of my own. I think my favorite library experience was definitely Battle of the Books. I’d like to think that every library has this wonderful program, but for the unfamiliar, BOTB is basically like Jeopardy for young adult books. We read 12 books over the summer, practiced with trivia questions every week, and duked it out with other libraries in a county-wide battle. It was intense. There were costumes, ridiculous team names (my favorite was the year we were Yoda’s Army of Undead Ninja Pirates), and tons of fun. As I got older, I did the Battle of the Books Advanced Division, and coached the littler kids’ team. It was the most wonderful way to combine my loves of books and trivia and friendship. Plus, I will never forget that Trudy wore Heavenly Heliotrope eyeshadow in Gordon Korman’s No More Dead Dogs.

St. Alcuin Montessori School

St. Alcuin Montessori School

Audrey, Contributing Editor

The Montessori School where I attended from pre-k through 8th grade was my source of knowledge and joy as a kid. I would sit for hours in the St. Alcuin Montessori School Library and read random entries in the World Books and finding answers to life’s greatest mysteries in the unabridged dictionary. It was Montessori, so we could do those sorts of things. The librarians always pushed me to stretch my mind and imagination, and they were equally happy giving me recommendations related to A Tree Grows In Brooklyn and Matt Christopher’s sports chapter books. In my dream universe, every kid has this kind of library at their elementary school.

Ann Arbor Public Library

Ann Arbor Public Library

Riese, Editor-in-Chief

I. I grew up in the library. I liked the Ann Arbor Public Library the best, the big one downtown with four floors and an enormous children’s and YA section. There was another branch closer to home that we usually visited, in the Westgate Mall right by Barry’s Bagels, but it was smaller than the Main Branch on 5th Avenue. Going to the main branch was an extra-special treat, is what I’m telling you. I always picked out too many books. I really wanted to read all of them, like every book in the universe, before I knew how big the universe was. Then my Mom would take me to Afternoon Delight around the corner, and I’d stack my books on the table so I could fantasize about them while enjoying my Bonanza Bagel (peanut butter and bananas on a raisin bagel, drizzled with honey). It was my favorite place in the world, the library. They had these Summer Reading Club Challenges. We signed up and got our stamps. That was a contest I could win.

II. In boarding school upstate our own library was lacking, but sometimes we could talk a teacher into taking us to the Traverse Area Library, which was big and so peaceful in the middle of the school day. During the one semester I attended Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville, I spent most of my time in the Sarah Lawrence Library, working. I was dazzled by their resources and their bean-bag chairs, and by the stories my gay best friend told me about having sex in the study rooms. At Michigan, the library (called the UGLI) was such a scene sometimes, it was hard to concentrate, but I found pockets where I could escape. In New York I tried to check books out at the Bryant Park branch but it turns out you can’t do that. There was the summer I was too agoraphobic to really go anywhere, ever, except the Harlem Branch. Now I go to the library in Berkeley, because it reminds me of Ann Arbor.

III. In 2006, my then-sorta-girlfriend was performing on an R-Family Cruise to Alaska that left out of Seattle, and brought me along. It was a big deal, this cruise, because it was the first homonormative environment I’d ever been in and the first place I felt like I could wear a dress and still be read as queer. Returning to earth was a punch in the gut, really. But before flying back to New York I had an entire day in Seattle, so I went to the library. I’m telling you this story because somebody needs to talk about how wonderful the Seattle Library is, but also because it was the first time I went to a place that had a queer section and didn’t feel strangely ashamed to be standing in it. See, I’d always felt weird standing in front of the lesbian movies at Kim’s, or the lesbian books at Barnes & Noble, or the LGBTQ section of the library. But not anymore. I’d shuffle quickly to the side, where the Feminist books were, because that seemed like a better place to be seen. But after feeling so free and open on the cruise, it wasn’t an issue. In the Seattle Public Library, I finally felt free, and at home.


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  1. When I was little I would go to three different libraries and check out very specific books (never too many, otherwise I would be distracted from the ones I wanted to read). They were so normal in my life I never really had a life-defining moment.

    However, at the end of my sophomore year of high school (after working in my middle school library for two years, and rarely going to other libraries), I got an internship at one of “my” old libraries. I created a teen writers week workshop. I helped do data entry for the reading program – and realized there really were countless patrons still using the library system. They kept me around as a shelver, and every day I’m welcomed in and smiled at. Little kids run up to me asking for help finding books and they call me ma’am or miss (I’m just a junior now). I get to see all the new books and recommend movies to people. Libraries are just really humbling and are such a rad human experience.

    Also I love the guy who looks exactly like Ron Weasley/Rupert Grint that visits my work on Saturdays.

  2. I loved the library down the street. And much like Riese said, it felt like an extra special treat to go into even if my mom and I practically went there every other day. It still looks and feels the same to this very day except that they’ve upgraded the old research area with new computers. When I was SUPPOSED to be self studying for my NCLEX a few years ago, I’d always somehow wander over to the back area and read these romance novels for God knows why. Then I found a book by Charles M. Schulz and my love for Peanuts was born. Good Grief!

  3. Aww, it’s so nice to see some love for libraries. I’m studying Library and Information Science at the moment, actually. I’m a little biased, but I adore the Seattle Public Library. It’s a gorgeous building and it feels super open on the inside. Once you get the hang of navigating its often confusing layout, it’s a decent place to study or read. Or, if you’re like me, attempt to decipher doodle covered class notes.

    One library I will shout out (again, very biased) is the University of Washington’s libraries. Every one sees pictures of the Suzzallo Reading Room, but as far as academic libraries go, it’s well run considering the size of the student body at UW.

    • Yay I was totally going to mention Suzzallo’s Reading Room! It has been my home for the past two years haha. What a magical place.

    • I love the SPL so freaking much, especially the central branch. I have spent so much time avoiding my problems in there.

  4. Libraries are always some of my favorite places. I was homeschooled til 15 (and a huge nerd in the first place), and spent so much time visiting libraries, taking classes at libraries, and working at libraries. I was always that kid leaving the building with 10+ books every week. I love the atmosphere, and the smell, and the sound of everyone’s feet, and the excitement of sampling every kind of book. There’s such a great feeling of freedom in being able to explore and discover stories and knowledge like that.

  5. When I was a kid my father used to take me to the library every saturday and afterwards we’d head over to the museum. The library was located in an old palais where the last king of our state had lived. I loved those saturdays…

    Many libraries later I feel most at home in the little danish bookmobiles catering to the danish speaking community in my city twice a month. The librarians are very nice and I get all the books, dvds, cds etc. I want. And they say I’m their best patron. :) And the bookmobiles look adorable: http://www.dcbib.dk/sites/default/files/image/bogbusserne.png

  6. Shout out to Riese for the UGLI name drop from a fellow Michigander/Michigan student! I despise the UGLI except for the 3rd floor reading room maybe. I’m a huge fan of the grad library stacks at U of M-it always feels like such a secret to have found this place. My favorite spot is some tables in the West Stacks (in the Communism/Gender section) where some friends of mine and I snagged a bunch of tables and camped out during finals last semester. But actually all libraries are great because books are just the best

  7. When I was in the 4th grade, I became my elementary school’s library assistant and I was so damn proud. Remember the book fairs, you guys?

    Then when I was 15, I used to ditch P.E. class and sneak off into the library to read about Edgar Allan Poe and WWII. /big nerd.

  8. I practically live at the library. One of my requirements when I decided to move to a new city was that it have a great library system. Honestly, I read so much that if libraries didn’t exist I would be thousands of dollars in debt just because of books. Plus I know so many great librarians! Librarians are great.

  9. This is so validating. I also love libraries, so much so that I’m currently studying to be a reference librarian. I really enjoy hearing about libraries that are close to your hearts. I love visiting libraries when I go new places. So far my favorite libraries are Forbes in Northampton (where I worked for almost 2 years), Petit Branch in Syracuse, and the Lake Placid Public Library.

    • Another former Pioneer Valley & Central NY resident?! I am also in library school (at Syracuse, online, so I’ve not been to the Petit branch) and fond of Forbes Library aka the Calvin Coolidge presidential library! Neilson does win my Northampton library prize, though, just because I spent so much time there.

      My other fave libraries: the Boston Public Library because it’s beautiful and the White library at Cornell because it’s like Harry Potter & Beauty & the Beast libraries had a baby.

  10. One of my proudest moments was in 1st grade, when my school librarian let me pick book from the 4th and 5th grade section.

    In middle school and high school, I used to purposely miss the school bus home so that I would ‘have’ to walk home. That way, I could pass the library and stay there till the closed, and then walk the rest of the way home with a heavy backpack full of books. I was too afraid to buy queer-themed books on my own, but library books were easy to hide or just leave on the library shelf and remember my place until next time.

  11. I love this post so much – libraries are important! When I was a kid I loved visiting the library and bringing home enormous piles of books. When I was in high school, the library was my refuge. I was having a lot of confusing feelings about God and about my best friend, and dealing with depression for the first time, so I was pretty miserable. I was also super shy and awkward and really bad at making friends, so I was extra miserable at school. I used to skip class all the time and go to the library downtown, which was kind of dark and quiet and high-ceilinged, like a church but with better books :). I could read about whatever I wanted, which was really important to me because my parents were pretty vigilant about monitoring whatever we read/watched/listened to at home. Sadly, that library was destroyed in a flood several years ago and rebuilt in a different location. I liked seeing the pictures of all your special libraries!


    Some of my first library memories are from kindergarten. I really wanted to beat the school record for AR tests, because I wanted to prove I loved books more than anyone ever. In elementary school we went to the library every week and learned something–how to use the Dewey Decimal system, the card catalog, etc. And it felt like I was part of a secret club of people who understood how libraries worked and it was magical and empowering. In middle school I discovered Tamora Pierce through the school library, and I’m not sure I would have survived puberty without them. In high school I discovered both the reference section and my love of research. In college I worked at the library on campus and relished my time sorting the stacks. It was quiet and I could focus really intently on what i was doing. I discovered all sorts of new interests and knowledge; books that hadn’t been touched in ages. When my best friend was killed I lived at the library. Books got me through because sometimes they were an escape. They were a mirror that reflected myself back to me and helped me process my grief and my despair. They helped me feel less isolated, and gave me comfort. And I learned that we get out of books what we need from them. Now I am living in Seattle and the Seattle Public Library is the greatest library in the world. It is beautiful architecturally and is brilliantly designed. Every time I go there I discover something new to love.

    Libraries are like churches for me. These amazing vast repositories of KNOWLEDGE and power and walking into one just makes me feel safe and at home and like the world is at my fingertips. And I am so happy that this post exists so I can talk about how wonderful they are.

  13. Maggie, I see your Robert Frost allusion and I appreciate it! There is a book called Lovely, Dark, and Deep (the title is taken from the Frost poem, obviously) by Amy McNamara that kind of saved my life. Not in a literal sense, but I found it at a time when I desperately needed it and it got me through an incredibly difficult time in my life. It is a beautiful, raw, honest (at times too much so) portrait of grief and living after loss.

  14. Also, 95% of the books ever written will never be read again. Isn’t that horribly sad?

    Sorry I keep commenting on this post.

    ~*so many library feels*~

  15. My favourite library of all time is the Vancouver Public Library Central Branch.

    Holy crap is it beautiful! 7 floors of awesomesomeness. Windows galore. Countless childhood and recent memories in there. The building is shaped like the Colosseum and has an indoor area that looks like it’s outdoors. I consider it my local castle.

    The local queer youth group at Qmunity does seasonal “Hide and Seeks” there where us queers literally get the whole 7 floors of the library to ourselves after-hours to play hide and seek, capture the flag and/or sometimes sardines. Hiding there makes me appreciate the space even more. Plus, part of the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus one of my favourite movies was partly filmed at the library, so it just adds icing to the cake!

    More info about the Central Branch here:

    If you ever come to Vancouver, it’s a must-see!

  16. In 1998, in the grim grey north of England, my local small town library didn’t have a gay books section. It did have a full collection of Jeanette Winterson which I booked out and read one by one over a glorious, and revelatory summer.

  17. So many library feels. I was a bookworm from an early age, and my mother and grandmother used to take me to the library daily. I used to hide from them in the stacks, with piles of books surrounding me. I feel kind of guilty, because I just moved from my hometown to Atlanta, and although I’ve found a bunch of awesome bookstores, I haven’t yet explored the local libraries.

  18. As a kid we would go to the local small town library once a week to get our books for the week. I didn’t realise just how formative that was until reading this post and realising that is where my love of books started. I still enjoy going to the library & getting too many books for the time to read them. I am so grateful I have a mother who loves to read.

    • Now that you mention it, I am also so grateful I have a mother who loves to read. Major quality time was spent in the children’s room in my youth.

  19. I used to visit my town library nearly every week-end when I was a child. I even worked there as a teen. Now, I’m a young adult in a big city, and I don’t visit libraries anymore. It’s a shame considering that I live close to the biggest library in Paris, as well as to the smaller ‘bibliothèque d’arrondissement’.
    You may have woke up the library nerd in me!

  20. I love articles on Libraries, seeing how much impact they can have on people’s lives and their communities. Kudos!

    Libraries are wonderful places! I recall using my school library as a kid and fighting the librarian over which books I could borrow and which I couldn’t. Later I fell off the Public Library Bandwagoon (and still don’t use any.), but since I’m a historian I travel a lot for my research and have used some of the most important historical libraries on the planet that are generally closed-off to the public. It’s a wonderful thing to soak in the atmosphere. Library travel is one of the best thing about my profession!

  21. This is one of the great things about Chicago. 80 LIBRARIES. And that’s just the public ones. There’s two branches within easy walking distance of me and quite a few more in reasonable biking distance. This place is great.


    I rarely find myself with a book in the library but I just love the atmosphere that I just like to find a corner and read from my laptop or draw and pine after the librarian that started working there since last Thursday, I mean lesbrarians are real right!?!

    I need hope in this black hole I call my thesis.

    • this lesbrarian is here to assure you that we are, indeed, very real.

      also, it’s the dream of every lesbrarian to find love in a library (bookstores are also acceptable), so you’re already in the right place. keep on keepin’ on. (but maybe do more than pine because lesbrarians, as a breed of humans, are awkward and introverted and you may have to make the first awkward move.)

  23. I love this!

    I could never pick just one favorite library.

    While living in a rural community when I should have been attending elementary school I cherished the 15 mile drives into town to stock up on Scholastic’s Push imprint YA books.

    One of my electives in junior high was being a library assistant.

    My first job with a check in high school ended up being a part time Page gig at the same library that I have my first memory of visiting a library to check out a book with basic words linked to pictures.

    In junior college I learned how to do research in the library and spent many evenings using the books and computers to finish projects and assignments since the computer and printer situation at home was touch and go.

    Since then, I’ve spent countless hours in libraries in Washington state, California, and New York. I once had a Metrolink layover in Orange and spent a few hours in the library reading about local artists. Another time I passed a few hours in a Corona library waiting for a punk show to start.

    My favorite big library is the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library that I loved visiting while living in Flatbush and East New York. It has everything! Any piece of literary or LGBTQ+ fiction I’d ever wanted to read was inside that building.

    The main Seattle library is the most uniquely designed one I’ve seen and the University of Washington one I played hooky to go see the most breathtaking.

    My favorite small library is the Brownsville Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library that I used to visit while living in East New York. It was the place I first registered to vote at a little table set up by members of the NAACP.

    After reading everyone else’s stories I can’t wait to add more libraries to my own collection of memories.

  24. Thank you for this perfect article, my lil heart is overflowing with joy and nostalgia. Tragically, the charming, tiny old building which housed my childhood library is now some kind of attorney’s office. Also I have a librarian cousin who specialized in rare books, and who married a fellow adorable rare books librarian and it was the cutest, sweetest, nerdiest wedding ever. Basically I have a lot of feelings, and libraries and librarians are the best and bring light and knowledge into the world.

  25. “the beauty of grade school libraries had a lot to do with the freedom inside them that you didn’t really get anywhere else. It felt like it belonged to us as much as the playground did.” — laneia knows my library feelings. My mom is a former elementary school librarian who worked at my school for a bit . Those years recall the feeling of the library belonging to me as much as I belonged there

  26. Oh wow. This hit a nerve in a good way, and I LOVED reading everybody’s library stories in the comments. There should be more features that also act as a kind of themed open thread, this is lovely.

    My favorite library will probably always be the Towson Library in Baltimore County. As libraries go it’s not especially big or beautiful (it’s kind of brutalist-ugly but not even all the way that), but when I was a kid my parents worked a lot (well, my mom worked a lot and my dad a normal amount) and we had au pairs and most Wednesday nights they’d drop my sister and me off at my dad’s office, and we’d walk the couple blocks to the library, pick out a few books, and then go to the Chinese restaurant across the street and read while eating (later, the restaurant owner’s daughter switched to our school, and she and my sister became really close friends, and we started getting free crab rangoons, which meant my sister and I got to pig out on crab rangoons because my dad is allergic to shellfish). The Towson library also had a back entrance with this big spiraling ramp in a huge high-ceilinged round room with a big bulbous chandelier in the middle, and god did I love running up and down that ramp. Outside, under the skybridge to the parking garage, there was this strange concrete circle with a koi pond painted onto it, a feature I’ve never fully understood. Another great thing about this library is that someone there deeply understood adolescent needs, and put the YA and graphic novels up on a mezzanine by themselves with a bunch of study tables. No adult books, no nonfiction, no children’s books. Just a nice little isolated upstairs area for angsty tweens and teens to get away. And even though I was too old to use it by the time they built it, the children’s section now has this crazy amazing castle wall around it, with a tower kids can climb in, and beanbags and stuff. When I was little there were just a few rocking chairs, and an area for really tiny kids with toys and board books.

    God I loved that library. It’s where I got all my Babysitter’s Club and Series of Unfortunate Events books, and before that all my Arthur books, and where my dad and I would sit and count the stairs on the Berenstain Bears’ house (it changes from book to book! Sometimes from page to page!), and where I snuck “Wicca for Dummies” into a pile of YA lit when I was in my 12-year-old pagan phase.

    Other great libraries with much less sentimental attachment include the Enoch Pratt Central Library, where my sister once got lost as a 3-year-old (and it’s a BIG place, but I think she just wandered back to the kids’ room there, which has a FOUNTAIN!! and they found her), my prep school’s library, where I slept through countless free periods on two chairs pushed together or on the one couch everyone raced to get to first (if you were a good sharer, and could sleep or work with your knees bent, you could fit two people, but usually that didn’t happen), and the elementary school library, where there weren’t any walls because the whole school was weird and open-plan and the bookshelves WERE the walls of the library and adjoining classrooms and there was a little 4th and 5th grade YA nook that had all the Tamora Pierce books that I begged my way into in 3rd grade after swearing I had read pretty much every novel in the rest of the library. Also I am becoming pretty attached to the Brookline Main Library, where I have spent a fair amount of time this semester. It has a gorgeous old reading room, and in the ugly downstairs addition there’s study carrels that basically hang off the side of the building and have wee petite doorways and make me feel like I am an island of productivity (but also are all glass on both sides so you can glance at the cute girl in the next carrel over….)

    Man, I love libraries.

      • aaaand now I’ve spelled library wrong which is ok because my dad used to always joke at/with my sister by calling it a “li-berry” so….libary it is.

  27. Aw yeah, libraries.

    My Very Important Library was at the community college where I was dual enrolled when I was 15. I was a skinny nerd girl with conservative parents and without a car, so most days I had 3-5 hours to kill at campus before I could get picked up. I spent them all at the library watching Joseph Campbell tapes or reading. I got introduced to Harry Potter there! (Couldn’t read before then because I was raised a strict Southern Baptist). Sometimes I would read books cover to cover, kneeling on a bench in the cool, dark aisles. Flowers for Algernon, books of Mary Oliver or Billy Collins poetry, re-reading young adult books like Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small series…

    Gahh – I still remember the little thrills as my world expanded. Thanks, Autostraddle, for bringing me back!

  28. I’ve been a fan of libraries for as long as I can remember. I was checking out stacks of books as a little 5 year old in the tiny library in our small town. And after we moved to another town, I would ride my bike to the library every week.

  29. Wow, I’ve LIVED in Ottawa for three years now, and I’ve actually never been to the Ottawa Public Library, for several reasons. Mostly, because I’m a student here, so I go to the campus library, but also, I just tend to BUY a lot of books (because I firmly believe any book worth reading is worth reading more than once). BUt after that glowing recommendation I’m going to have to check it out.

    Unfortunately, after 7 years of post-secondary education, and countless papers and hours spent in school libraries writing, researching, and studying, I’ve come to HATE libraries a little. It’s pretty sad. Bookstores, on the other hand, have not lost their appeal. My favourite bookstore, however, will always be the one in Beauty and the Beast. Every book lover I know wants a home library with that ladder one day…

  30. I grew up in a tiny rural village, so we didn’t have a library. The closest one was a 30 minute drive which which made going there a once in a while thing. But we did have a Bookmobile! It came around once every two weeks and it was such an event, it was always the most exciting day. I always checked out my limit.

    My favorite library now is the Madison Public Library’s main branch. They just did a huge renovation and turned it into this amazing community library with a great children’s floor, a dedicated youth area, cafe, creative spaces for making art, a recording studio and labs for making film and stop-motion animations and many other things. And the best thing about it is that it’s a place where you’ll never be ‘shushed’.

  31. I also love the Little Free Library phenomenon. I totally scored Fingersmith while I was walking to work yesterday.

  32. My mom started bringing me with her to the library once a week before I could read. Our maximum of books to loan out at once was 4, so for all of my primary school years, we HAD to come once a week or I would be out of books. When we went on holiday I had to select the really big epic fantasy novels so they would last long enough.

    For a while when I was seventeen-ish, when I had just come out and kept having large fights with my parents and hearing those anti-gay slurs at school and losing online friends to their depressions, which may sound weird but was really intense, I was in my last year of secondary school and I would come to the main city library every day after school (or sometimes I would skip class and go there) and read English language newspapers because they were all my head could focus on. I would stay till it got dark out, take the bus out of town for thirty minutes and be home in time for dinner.

    These days I’m a lit student and I try to stick to 10 Am to 6 PM days in the faculty library, surrounded by foreign language dictionaries and my friends writing their own papers. It’s become a love-hate relationship for the moment but I’m quite sure it will recover once the thesis writing bit is over. The library is my lifeline, y’all.

  33. I didn’t comment on this article when I first read it because I was squinting at my phone on a crowded train, but I wanted to come back and say how much this article meant to me. I always loved my library(ies) growing up and I’m a librarian now. I hope some day, one of my students looks back at their elementary school library with this kind of fondness and thinks of it as a safe and transformative space for them.

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