A Library Collection

I am in a very special spot in the world, Lopez Island yes, but more specifically the Lopez Island LibraryThis little library in a community of 2400 is a five-star rated library, a prestigious ranking from the Library Journal. One of only two in the state to receive this distinction, the other one has an annual budget of $30+ million while the library here on Lopez has less than $400,000.

This week we attended the Lopez Island Library's 34th Annual Teddy Bear Picnic. Since his teddy bears are back at home, Xavier took Peter Rabbit as his guest. We've been attending story time on Wednesdays while on the island and it is one of the best place to feel like a local. I like to peek in libraries to get a sense of a community and I have a few favorite libraries in the world. Some are grand, some cozy, but all very magical. Over the years, I have collected them like gems.

In the beginning, there was the Bookmobile that parked down the street from my house in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Tuesday afternoons. At the main branch of the library I was allowed to check out framed art by the likes of Renoir for my bedroom walls in addition to books.

Then there was my library, the one I lovingly organized in my basement when I was in grade school.  I spent a week categorizing my family's books and made library cards for my friends. I don't think I ever officially opened the library, I just had such fun cataloging it. Sometimes I think I missed my calling.

During my Rotary Youth Exchange year in Turkey I visited Ephesus where the Library of Celsus is the most intact surviving ancient library in the world. I could hear the whooshing of robes and patter of soft voices from ghosts of patrons and scholars here.

I spent a lot of time studying and daydreaming in the Bapst Art Library while I was at Boston College, which ranks first on this list of Most Beautiful Campus Libraries. Just walking into this library made me feel smarter and infused with the wisdom of the ages.

I fell madly in love with Thomas Jefferson at his library at Monticello.

Like millions of others, I also have a special place in my heart for the New York Public Library's two pink Tennessee marble lions, Patience and Fortitude.

If one happens to be very pregnant and not skiing, one can spend a snowy day curled up in an armchair with a pile of books at the Whistler Library in British Columbia. This reading room was mentioned on this list of Incredible Reading Rooms Around the World.

In Europe, I've walked in awe through the Melk Abbey Library in Austria, the Vatican Library and the Trinity College Library in Dublin. In Portugal, Christian and I had the Biblioteca Joanina at the University of Coimbra all to ourselves and watched tiny bats ruffle the air as they flew about. We just recently visited the Wren Library in Cambridge where I was thrilled to come across A.A. Milne's handwritten manuscript for Winnie-the-Pooh. (A fun side note: Maggie Wren Crume, the infant daughter of my friend Catherine is named after Christopher Wren, this architect ancestor in their family tree and her name is doubly symbolic as they are also a birding family).

On the other end of the spectrum from royalty-funded libraries, when Christian and I traveled to Vietnam we raised money to donate a mobile library for poor rural schools through GoPhilanthropic and Global Village Foundation. We personally presented the children with a library of 250 books, half in Vietnamese, half in English at a special all-school assembly. It was definitely a highlight of our trip.

Back in Seattle Rem Koolhas sparked controversy with his design for the downtown public library (the other five-star library in Washington with a very healthy budget), but I like it. However I spend more time at our neighborhood Carnegie branch in Greenlake which I frequent on a weekly basis. There I can check out more books about beautiful libraries in the world such as...

Happy Summer Reading!

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