Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Alive!

I love writing in libraries. For my first novel, I must have written in a half dozen Vancouver libraries, two in Richmond, one in Whistler and one in Arnprior, Ontario. The stacks of published titles inspire me. The diverse patrons fascinate me. There's a story behind why each one is there.

While in Vancouver for the weekend, I camped out in the Oakridge branch, which is part of the popular retail mall. The library itself is only accessible from a separate outside entrance. A shame, really. Two friends I met with for meals reacted with, "There's a library at the mall?!" Of course, the library faithful have no problem finding it.

The branch closes at 9 p.m. on Friday nights and when I left fifteen minutes early--yes, turning off the lights and having a pregnant pause before restoring power gets the point across, albeit with no trace of subtlety--the place was still a flurry of activity with people of all ages.

I returned the next morning three minutes after its 10 a.m. opening and two dozen patrons had already staked out their places.

In the afternoon, I moved to a study carrel in the Quiet Zone, having had my fill before lunch of overhearing animate conversationalists. (Two older gentlemen had perched on stools ostensibly for computer users. They exchanged opinions about Castro, the Middle East and Stephen Harper's chances for reelection. They hadn't moved in the time I quieted my growling stomach. This was their community stoop.)

The young Chinese guy in the carrel beside me spent the next three hours busily studying his laptop screen. Talk about focus! I'm the type of person who needs a stretch break every twenty minutes. (That's when I randomly wander amongst the stacks and dream about that heretofore never contemplated trip to Corsica. The book on sprucing up one's flower boxes seemed a little too relatable--and too much like work.)

My carrel-mate's self-discipline rubbed off a bit. My breaks were at least shorter than usual. I wrote several pages for a new project, revised four short stories and read a couple of chapters from a how-to guide on screenwriting.

Twenty minutes before closing time as I packed up my belongings, I couldn't help but peek over the carrel to see what it was that so thoroughly consumed my neighbor. Turned out it was a videogame. My initial reaction was, He couldn't do that at home? He needed the Quiet Zone for that?!

Why not? Two gentlemen parked in the library to chat about current events, I was there to write, and here was a guy who needed a haven to play a game. Like I said, there's a story behind each library user. Each of us got what we needed.

As I made my way through the library and toward the exit, the place was still hopping with patrons. Thankfully, I am not the only one who appreciates a local library.

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