Library Love

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.

The Westport Public Library's architectural has always been controversial. The intelligence, creativity, helpfulness and warmth of its staff is never in doubt.

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.)

4 responses to “Library Love

  1. Libraries are terrific places and a bargain to boot. Every year, I take a course at NCC to keep my mind active. This year, for various reasons, I neglected to sign up at NCC. Instead, I have found a wealth of informative programs at all the local libraries. There are some weeks where I have a hard time choosing between a program at Westport Libary or Wilton. Libraries have become community centers and aren’t we the better for it?

  2. The Dude Abides

    Amen to Eric’s comments. I do, however, want Grisham’s latest book of short stories and find them readily. But can they please do something about those screaming children upstairs???
    I was taught that the library should be a sanctity for peace and quiet. The Westport library has become an extension of the YMCA in noise pollution.

  3. Deirdre O'Farrelly

    We love the library, and I have to mention the wonderfully helpful staff up in the children’s library, numerous times they have helped find vast amounts of information for school projects, getting interested themselves in the process and ferrying me along with them on the journey along with my youngest child, also helping him find the latest books on tape that he wants for that long car trip or when home sick. Thank you
    sorry – where’s the noise pollution?

  4. Grumpy Old Man

    Ms. O’Farrelly: The noise pollution is the shrieking of young children on the second level, the rather open and loud verbal conversations at the desk and the irritating teenage giggling in the computer section. This is fine for the thirty-something Stepford wives who frequent the library every day but I find it rather disrespectful to those of us who work and attemt to focus our dementia ridden minds in such a setting and grew up in a much different libary environment.