When in doubt, go to the library

It’s not often that you’ll find me giving advice in a blog. Or indeed, anywhere. I know some stuff, but the longer I live, the more I realise that really, my sum of wisdom is as tiny as a grain of sparkling sand on a white, sun-drenched beach lapped by an azure ocean. (My goodness, you can tell I’m a writer. How about that for a poetic image?)

 Anyway, today’s advice, such as it is, is this. Go to the library. As often as you can. And make sure you tell the librarians what a cracking job they’re doing. When eventually I ascend to the heavenly realms, I am reasonably sure that there will be a vast, well-stocked library somewhere about the place, with lots of cosy seating by sunny windows, good coffee, non-fattening cakes (it is heaven, after all) and perhaps some of the authors themselves ready for a nice long chat about their inspiration and their world view. 

There are all kinds of libraries out there and last week I found out about one which I will probably never visit. It’s in a tiny village in New York State and it’s the brainchild of a fabulous person called Katie Zehr. I was burbling on about something on Twitter and she got in touch, asking more about my Isabella M Smugge series of books. If you can call two books a series. I am writing number three at present, so I think we’ll stretch a point.

Castorland is the village in question, located in the northwest of the state and surrounded by vast swathes of woodland, according to my research. The kind of romantically named natural features that you only seem to get in the USA (Beaver Falls, Deer River, Otter Creek) are scattered around it and these days, about 400 people live there. One thing Castorland doesn't have is a library and so Katie got to work, a one-woman powerhouse. There are three libraries within a fifteen-minute drive, but Katie started chatting to her community and soon had permission to run her library from the pavilion in the village park. A lady named Haley in nearby Wilma sold her a cabinet, she put her first few books in it and the Castorland Little Library was born. 

Katie has stocked her Little Library with donations and is tireless in her quest to get as many books as possible. On Twitter, she spots authors who write books she likes the look of and asks for donations. If you don’t ask you don’t get, and I  am more than happy to dispatch a copy of “the Diary of Isabella M Smugge” and “the Trials of Isabella M Smugge” to the States. I’m not quite sure what the good folk of Castorland will make of all the scone baking, toddler groups and ancient churches, but I will wait to hear. 

Like me, Katie is mad keen on books and like me, one of her favourite sayings is, “Everyone has a story.” And so they do. Castorland is very small and rural with just a post office, fire station and a Mennonite school. Katie feels that her Little Library is a resource which is really needed. “Reading and books are so important in so many ways. I only just put the library under the pavilion a week or so ago and last Thursday I was on the popular Lewis County news website. I’m sure once the word gets out, it will be really popular.” 

I love the idea of my books winging their way from a hamlet in East Suffolk to a village in New York State. I don’t know who will read them or what they will think, but it makes me smile to know that someone, thousands of miles away, is celebrating the joy of books and reading and using her own time generously to bless her community. 

To find out more about Katie’s Little Library, you can follow her on Twitter at @castorlillib and on Facebook at Castorland Little Library.

Images by Pixabay and courtesy of Katie Zehr

Ruth is a novelist and freelance writer. She is married with three children, one husband, two budgies, two quail, eight chickens and a kitten. Her first novel, “The Diary of Isabella M Smugge”, came out in February this year and the sequel, “The Trials of Isabella M Smugge” is out this month. She writes for a number of small businesses and charities, reviews books for Reading Between the Lines and blogs at ruthleighwrites.co.uk. She has abnormally narrow sinuses and a morbid fear of raw tomatoes, but has decided not to let this get in the way of a meaningful life. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at ruthleighwrites and at www.ruthleighwrites.co.uk.


I love this, Ruth, and it is in the tradition of a writer friend of mine who writes 'cosy mysteries' and lives in the village which inspires them. I'm just imagining this lace: I have other friends, a couple of wonderful academics, who live in a place in West Virginia (Blue Mountain Ridge) also surrounded by total rural-ness - though if it hasn't a library I'd imagine they'd found one...What fun to found a library - though tempting to stock it with one's own taste, which I know would end up with being so careful to include crime, both cosy and hard-core, with books about cricket and hang-gliding (not together of course)and Golf...with How-tos on mending your bicycle...and all that... and end up fore-going novels, literary and otherwise...
Anyhow, what fun. I am legitimately tempted to offer my Mullins family novels, set in Cambridge, Oxford, West Cornwall - surely brain-fodder for people in up-state NY, before they take their tourist trip to the UK?!
Ruth Leigh said…
Thank you Clare! The Weiner Library! Certainly has a ring to it.

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