The Westport Library’s winter book sale starts this Saturday (March 13) and runs through Tuesday. Westport author and media critic Eric Burns is — like many Westporters — a huge Westport Library fan. Unlike the rest of us, he’s put his thoughts down in (appropriately) words. He writes:
As an author, I make unusual requests of the Westport Public Library. I do not ask for the latest James Patterson; I ask for the oldest John Adams. I do not ask for that volume of short stories John Grisham just wrote; I ask for that volume of even-shorter letteres Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his children a century ago.
I do not want to rent time on the computers; I want to borrow a 200-year old pamphlet from a branch library in Nova Scotia through the Inter-Library Loan program, or ILL, an acronym that does double duty, for it also describes how Susan Madeo, who heads the ILL program, surely reacts when she sees me coming through the door with another of my arcane requests.
Then again, I do double duty myself, for I also use the library as a normal patron — finding books that are already on the shelves, annoying no one with requests for esoterica.
In both capacities, I find that it is the people, not the building, not even the books, that are most satisfying to me. Never in my life have I met a collection of men and women who so cordially attend to the needs of young and old, pushy and modest, erudite and bumbling, pleasant and grumpy.
I am pleased to be well acquainted with the 2 people who run the library. Maxine Bleiweis and George Wagner have assembled an extraordinary staff of intelligent, competent, charming and eagerly helpful people, so extraordinary that I want to take advantage of their services even when I could figure out something for myself. I want to enjoy their conversation, their company. I want to take up their time.
It is said that the Westport Public Library is not a warm, inviting structure. It isn’t. The people who work there, however, make it the coziest, most inviting place in town.
Maybe there’s something else I could order from that branch library in Nova Scotia.
(Eric Burns’s forthcoming book, “Invasion of the Mind Snatchers: Television’s Conquest of America in the Fifties,” will be published in September. The acknowledgments page will be full of names from the Westport Public Library, where he appears to discuss the book, also in the fall.)