Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tess Gerritsen, Guest Blogger

If you love thrillers, public libraries, or Tess Gerritsen, you're in for a treat today. Tess didn't choose to talk about her new book, Ice Cold, so I'll just mention that it debuted at #10 on Sunday's NYTimes Best Seller List. It's a Rizzoli & Isles thriller. Fans of the series have probably already discovered the new TNT series on Monday nights, Rizzoli & Isles. If you haven't seen it, here's a brief clip, http://www.tnt.tv/dramavision/?oid=56565&eref=sharethisUrl.

When Tess Gerritsen agreed to do a guest blog, I never expected to receive a piece about public libraries that made me cry. Thank you, Tess.

"They cut the city's library budget down to the bone. And approved funding for another damn sports stadium!"

That was the complaint I heard a few years ago from one of my media escorts as he drove me around his town. He said it with a combination of disgust and disbelief. The city, he said, already had one huge stadium; a new one was necessary to keep the local sports teams happy and to sell more booze and tee shirts. As for libraries? Ha! All they're good for is enriching minds, advancing education, and informing the public. Minor stuff when compared to the importance of throwing around a ball.

As I listened to him rant, I could feel my own blood pressure rising in sympathy. I've always thought of the public library as an institution so beloved in this country that it ranks right up there with mom, the flag, and apple pie. While I was growing up in San Diego, my suburban library branch was an anchor of the community, a place where children mingled with retirees, where librarians gave out prizes for children who read the most books over the summer. Twice a week, my mom would drop me off at that modest building, and I'd scoop up the latest mystery and adventure novels. As long as you kept your voice low and didn't raise a ruckus, a kid was welcome there. It was a place to feed your brain, and in that post-Sputnik era, our country was all about advancing knowledge. Education was how America would produce new scientists, discover new medicines, and put a man on the moon. Libraries were a vital part of that effort.

They still are. But every so often, I'm stunned when a news article or a comment reveals that not everyone agrees.

Last year, this news item (http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=325508) appeared in a suburban Chicago newspaper, about a citizen who felt that the local library wasn't worth supporting. He felt it was time to stop "indulging people in their hobbies" and "their little, personal, private wants." Just as startling were the online comments that followed that article, including one contending that libraries should "prove their own worth" in the same way health clubs do. "Why force people who don't use it to pay for it?" And: "With the internet along with every school having a library, is there really the need for libraries anymore? At least, does EVERY town need one?"

Is this what we've come to? Libraries are now mere indulgences, and the internet takes the place of books? Why read a book at all, when you can just click on Wikipedia and find all the information you'll ever need, about anything? And if a kid wants to do something as ridiculous as read a novel, well, too bad for him. If he can't pay for a book, he should just learn to do without.

When I encounter attitudes like this, I wonder if the values I grew up with - a respect for deep knowledge and science, a belief that young minds should be nurtured -- have somehow fallen by the wayside. I worry that people now believe that superficial knowledge, so easily available on the internet, is all they'll ever need to acquire. I worry that impoverished children will never experience the joy I felt as a child, wandering the stacks of my local library.

But then I walk into a busy library, as I did just last month in Portland, Maine, and I see scores of patrons eagerly scanning the new titles. Or I'll travel to a library to give a speech, and encounter a room packed with enthusiastic readers, as I recently found in Bowling Green, Kentucky. And I realize that, yes, there are still plenty of people who love libraries, people for whom reading a book still trumps flitting through internet sites.


Tess, I can't thank you enough for this important blog about public libraries. It means so much to me, and so many people throughout the country. Thank you.

Stop back at the blog tonight, when I'll kick off the contest, giving away two copies of Tess Gerritsen's Ice Cold.

Tess Gerritsen's website is www.TessGerritsen.com

Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen. Ballantine Books, ©2010. ISBN 9780345515483 (hardcover), 314p.

28 comments:

Kay said...

What a wonderful post! I knew I liked Tess Gerritsen! She states many things that you and I, Lesa, know from firsthand experience. I sometimes just shudder to think what might happen if all we have to rely on is the internet. Yes, technology changes things and, yes, our medium of acquiring information may change, but to lose our libraries would be such a tragedy. I wish that everyone could spend a few hours just observing what transpires in libraries across the country. It would be eye-opening.

I watched the first episode of Rizzoli and Isles and I was pleased. I'm curious as to where they will go with the storyline, but even when it veers from the books (which it will have to at some point), I think it definitely has promise. Love the fact that the FBI guy, Gabe, is played by "Bella's Dad, Chief Swann"! LOL

Lesa said...

You're right, Kay. If everyone spent a couple hours sitting in a public library, they'd be amazed.

I'm afraid I don't get the reference to "Bella's Dad, Chief Swann." Does it have anything to do with the Twilight series, which I haven't seen or read?

I'm looking forward to watching Rizzoli & Isles. I liked the first one. I'll miss the second since I'll be at the Poisoned Pen Monday night. Lisa Gardner is there. But, Thursday night, Tess Gerritsen will be at there. I've never met her, but I'm going, and I can at least thank her for the guest blog about libraries.

Kay said...

Yes, Lesa, it was a reference to the Twilight movies. :-)

How exciting to get to see both of these lovely authors. Poisoned Pen is just full of fun events these days.

Lesa said...

You're right. They have a terrific roster of authors appearing at the Poisoned Pen. Wish you could be here, Kay.

Marilyn Johnson said...

Thank you, Tess Gerritsen, and thank you, Lesa. What a wonderful and clear voice to read on this most critical issue!
You both might be interested in the new group Authors for Libraries
http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/altaff/authors_for_libraries/authors.cfm

Lesa said...

You're THE Marilyn Johnson?! Thank you for taking the time to comment. I appreciated your book, This Book is Overdue, and also your editorials supporting libraries. Thank you. I'll check out the group, Authors for Libraries.

Mike Cane said...

Bravo, Tess. We're always fighting Bloomberg in NYC. He apparently thinks the NYPL is a minor thing that can be gutted of its operating budget every year. keep up the good fight for public libraries.

Lesa said...

Thank you for the comment, Mike. We need voices such as Tess' to speak up for libraries.

Mollie said...

What a wonderful post! I just linked to it on my new blog feature "Library Love" and this week I was discussing Authors & Libraries so this was a perfect fit!

Anonymous said...

We've been lucky with our local library, a branch of LA County Public Library. We have a very involved Friends of the Library group and the City Council strongly supports the library (we have seven colleges in town - how would it look if the library closed?? ;) ). When hours were threatened several years ago, they stepped up and kept the library open as usual. Now some branches are threatened but somehow it's worked out that our library has more hours! Go figure!

I just a few years ago was introduced by the library's manager to the main library website - what a treasure! You can request books, extend due dates, search the database. That was when my library usage really went up!

I'm in and out of the library several times a week, though, picking up and returning books, seeing what is new. The library display is where I first discovered Recorded Books on tape and I've since discovered many authors on tape I may not have otherwise explored.

There are many ways to "read" a book, but the starting point is the library. Local and physical is best!

Judith

Lesa said...

Thank you, Mollie, and thank you for linking from your blog. It does sound as if it's a perfect fit.

Lesa said...

Judith,

It's library patrons like you that keep that library support going in your community. When people speak up, politicians listen. They don't care what librarians say (although we're voters and taxpayers, too). But, they do care what citizens say.

Thank you for using, and supporting your library.

Beth Hoffman said...

Oh, Lesa! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I got a little choked up.

This sentence mirrors my feelings exactly: "I wonder if the values I grew up with - a respect for deep knowledge and science, a belief that young minds should be nurtured -- have somehow fallen by the wayside."

Lesa said...

You're not the only one who got choked up, Beth. I did, too. Wasn't it a wonderful blog in support of libraries. I agree with you. I do wonder if those values have been forgotten.

Cindy Sample said...

What a great interview. I spent the majority of my childhood wandering through the treasure trove found in the local library in my small town. The internet is wonderful but nothing can take the place of your public library, whether in a small town or large city.

Lesa said...

Wasn't that a great blog, Cindy? Tess' blog really hit home with so many people.

Mike Nettleton said...

Tess's article brought a lump to my throat too. I grew up in the small town of Bandon, Oregon where the library was the size of your average 7-11 today. Still, as a bespectacled, bookwormish 9 year old I always managed to leave with the legal limit of 7 books under my chubby little arms. As to those who don't think they should have to pay for anything they don't personally use, I say--get a life. A good place to start would be by reading a good book

Lesa said...

Mike,

Even your note brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. Those of us who love books, and love libraries, have discovered wonderful worlds and lives there. You're right. Those people need to get a life that involves caring for others.

agyw said...

Lesa, I lived in Mesa and Apache Junction for awhile, and now I'm back in Windham Maine (a suburb of Portland), I'm a children's writer/illustrator (www.yellapalooza.com), so I feel a strong connection already with you and this issue. I would also comment, as sad as this is, most schools are getting RID of their librarians, leaving clerks, technicians and substitutes to handle the managerial aspects, and the technical aspects be damned. In some places they are doing away with school libraries all together. So the fallacy of it's covered in school, is far more insidious. The terrorist took out more than those buildings. Our fear has lead us to a serious crisis with how we spread our words around. Without being able to nurture literacy, dessiminate information and practice our freedom (goodness knows librarians have been the bastions to our country)I believe our Democratic Republic is done for.

Lesa said...

Thank you, agyw.

I do agree that our fear has helped create this national crisis. At the same time, our crashing economy has caused a great deal of the trouble for libraries because most people have a hard time putting libraries on the same level as police and fire when it comes time to measure out the dollars.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lesa, for pointing this out to me! I'm so glad I didn't miss it. How nice to know there are people like Tess who care so deeply about libraries!

Lesa said...

You're welcome. I think it's important that people like Tess are speaking up about libraries.

Anonymous said...

My family had very little money when I was growing up. So I relied on the small-town library to pick up books they couldn't afford to buy me. Wondrous! To this day I love libraries. They are not "indulgences," they are the backbone of civilization. Not everyone can afford the Internet, but everyone can "afford" a library in which anyone can read to heart's content.

Shane Gericke

Lesa said...

So many authors understand that Shane. I'm sorry others don't. I loved Dennis Lehane's recent comments. “I’m a writer because of libraries,” said best-selling author Dennis Lehane at this morning’s (June 28) Auditorium Speaker program at the Washington Convention Center. Having grown up in a working-class Boston neighborhood where money was tight and books were scarce at home, he appreciated the value of libraries from an early age. “Libraries say to working-class and poor kids that they matter, that they can read the same books as the children of the hedge fund managers.”

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