Our bibliophile this week is Robin. Robin likes to write, as you can see.
- Do you remember when you developed an interest in reading?
I remember my mother reading to me as a little child. She liked to read me poems and fairy tales. My mother, Shirley, read every single night of her life until she became ill – she had a favorite chair that she would sit in and read for hours. It was very hard to get her attention when she was reading. She encouraged me to read with her words and her example. Our old farmhouse was full of books. I got used to reading old worn-out copies of books that belonged to someone that once lived in the farmhouse – some belonged to my brothers and sister and some were from when my grandmother lived there and belonged to my aunts and uncles or my grandfather. I learned not to judge a book by its cover since all of our books were well used. I would read and reread the same books over and over. We did not have a library living out in the country as we did – although every once in awhile we would go to the bookmobile in Williamsville. The first books I remember reading on my own were the Honey Bunch and Norman series that my mother said belonged to my grandmother when she was little. They were about a very sweet little girl and her adventures as a detective. I used to always want to be Honey Bunch! I read them to my kids when they were little and we thought about dressing them up as Honey Bunch and her friend Norman for Halloween but we figured no one would have any idea who they were supposed to be.
- How many books do you read at a time or a week?
It depends how busy I am. I am not a fast reader. I try to read a little every day. So, on average I probably finish one every two weeks.
- What is your favorite genre? Favorite author? Favorite place to read?
When I was younger I really enjoyed fiction (especially mysteries) and hardly ever read nonfiction. I guess it seemed too much like school. I read every Agatha Christie I could find in high school. Oddly enough, now it is the opposite. I still enjoy fiction but I am picky about what I read. I tend to be sort of an emotional reader. If I read something depressing or disturbing, then it will stay with me for a long time. If I read something uplifting, then that will stay with me too. Reading really affects my mood. So, I try to be aware of what kind of things I read and try to steer myself toward the positive side of things. So, in a nutshell I enjoy fiction but there has to be some sweetness in it or I must like at least one of the characters by about page 40 or I will give up. I don’t like to read made up stories with a lot of violence or raunchiness and I absolutely can’t stand to read about serial killers and such things. But, conversely if I read nonfiction, since it is true – then I can read about disturbing things because I think there are lessons to be learned from them. I know this probably doesn’t make any sense at all, but this seems to be my reading creed.
I enjoy history especially if it is the true story of someone and not a history text book. I think my favorite books now are inspiring stories of real people. I keep thinking that if I read about courageous people maybe someday I will be one too. So far, that hasn’t happened but I keep reading them anyway.
My favorite fiction book is David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I love the characters and I have read it so often that I almost feel like they are old friends. I think my favorite books are ones in which I almost feel like I am in the book standing right beside one of the characters and sharing in all their adventures. That is how David Copperfield is to me.
A close second to David Copperfield is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I was inspired by the character of Jean Val Jean. He is a criminal in the beginning of the book and by the time it ends he has reformed himself completely and is almost saint like. During the course of his life, he is faced with many choices – he can take the easiest way or he can do the right thing that he knows will surely hurt him. He always chooses to do the right thing. It sounds so simple but through Hugo’s writing you live through the consequence of those choices with Jean Val Jean.
Some books that I found memorable in the last few years are: The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, Of Beetles and Angels by Mawi Asgedom, Four Wings and a Prayer: Caught in the Mystery of the Monarch Butterfly by Sue Halpern, Be the Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World by Zach Hunter, Dove by Robin Lee Graham, and Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.
I have discovered that I cannot read lying down anymore – I must read sitting up or else I tend to fall asleep. I inherited my mother’s favorite reading chair and I enjoy reading in it also! But, I most enjoy reading during breakfast at my kitchen table!
- Is there a book that changed your life?
I have not read one book that dramatically changed my life but I think over the course of my life I have read many that have subtly changed my way of thinking. A few years ago I read the book Henry’s Farm by local author Tara Brockman. In this book I learned about the growing movement of buying food locally which was a primary reason that I joined a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) a few summers ago. Recently I read Half the Sky – Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book was hard for me to get through and I still had several chapters left when I had to return it and put it back on hold again. The book deals with many oppressive issues. I don’t enjoy reading about such evil things that happen but I know that I need to learn and understand these issues. If you follow the news, you will recognize that recently several stories have made the headlines regarding women’s struggles – the attempted murder of the young girl in Pakistan that was speaking out for the education of girls and the horrible fate of the young woman in India who boarded a bus with her male friend. I believe women’s rights are one of the most important issues in the world today!
- How long have you been coming to the library?
I believe it was about 14 years ago when we first started coming to this library.
- What are your thoughts on the library expansion? Advantages?
Before I started working here, the library expansion seemed like a good enough idea. But, now that I work here I have stronger opinions about it. Many of our patrons are older people, they seem to have more time to read books. Books are very important to older people. Books help them to pass the time and are an enjoyment and maybe sometimes are companionship to them. The steps are such a struggle. There are steps on the outside to negotiate and steps on the inside also. Many people come in out of breath. The bathroom is in the basement so many have to leave instead of trying to go down more steps. I have seen daughters and sons come into the library only to get books for their parents who cannot come in anymore. I have seen people from the El Paso Healthcare try to come in with walkers. I have seen daughters and sons bring their elderly parents in with walkers and help them up and down the stair. I have seen a local young man with a disability who had to be carried most of the way by his parents. This should not be! The library is a public facility and surely everyone should be able to have access to it.
I knew someone personally who had a severe injury to their leg a few years ago. She was on crutches but when she went out of the home it was much easier to go in a wheelchair. She told me how very difficult it was, even in places that were handicap accessible. Outside doors to buildings are often very heavy and so hard to manage from a wheelchair. Ramps are often so steep that someone would have to push you and even then it might not be very easy.
I have also seen computer usage go up. People are required to do more and more things via computer, the most recent trend I have noticed is more and more companies requiring people to fill out job applications online. The library is such an important resource to people who do not have a computer at home. Right now we can only have room enough for two sit-downs and one stand-up. There are still times when people want to use it but have to go away because they are already in use. Many people use the computer for things I would consider very important – job searches, research, school papers, etc. It would be very helpful to the community if we had room for more computers.
If you have been in the library lately, you can see how crammed it really has become. It would be nice to have more space to do work and be able to walk without having to step around things. I think our patrons would be able to find things easier also if we had things sectioned off better and had some free room on the shelves. It would be wonderful to have meeting rooms for the public to use and also for the library to have available for different programs or classes.
I also think our director needs an office of her own. She is off in the corner now and doesn’t get much privacy and gets distracted quite often by commotion, questions, and visitors. She is very dedicated and hard-working and I think she would benefit from having an office to work in, at least part of the day.
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