Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Conan the Librarian

I was raised to admire and respect a host of qualities in a person, while many of them are obvious, kindness, integrity, a sense of humor, etc., there was one that was held in the highest esteem by my father, he could forgive you for a lot of things, as long as you were well read.

To say he had a passion for books would be an understatement. My father collected them, talked about them, consumed them and shared them with anyone he came in contact with. Our house was filled from the basement to the furthest corners of the master bathroom with stacks of tomes, many of them opened and placed face down, waiting for my father to come back and pick up where he left off. Whenever my father entered his study (which was more like his small book warehouse) he would call out, "hello friends." (Full disclosure, he also said that when opening the refrigerator.)

My father could not tolerate idleness, if he found us sitting around, he would say, "what are you reading? Where is your book?" It didn't help that my mother was also an avid reader. During her summer breaks from teaching school, my mother would dive into her reading list and we would often talk about our stories having dinner on the patio. The summer of my sophomore year of high school I got hooked on an obscure series written about the French monarchy. My mother helped me track down the missing volumes through the Pittsburgh library system and even drove me to and from remote branches so I could finish the series.

Librarians and bookstore owners had a special place in my father's heart as he romanticized about a life with books (he always forgot about the customers!) and dreamt of having a bookstore with enough money to not have to worry about ever selling a single volume.

My father was a big, intimidating man. He could scare the pants off you with one quick stare. It was fitting then that my brother Shawn's friends gave him the nick name Conan the Librarian as it summed up both sides of his larger than life personality.

All of this came back to me when I saw the Summer 09 Catalog Random House sent out to librarians. I had a picture in my head of Miss Graham and all the librarians from my youth opening the catalog and wondering if the Teri Coyne they knew from so long ago was the same one who wrote The Last Bridge.

Or maybe there is a young volunteer, like me, who shelves books after school, who looked through the catalog and imagined what it would be like to see her book on one of those shelves (and also like me, wondered why the Dewey Decimal system is so damn complicated.)

Whoever you are, however you find it, consider yourself welcome and appreciated and if it were possible, my book would say "hello friend," right back at you.

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