A libraryâ€™s bread and butter is stories. We cultivate, collect and store tales from all over the world.
My office looks out into the library. Full stacks of books, CDs, and DVDs fill my view. I canâ€™t help but think of the famous TV quote, â€œThere are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This is just one of them,â€ when I select one for a library user.
I so love their excitement and satisfaction when we find the book for which theyâ€™re searching. Better yet is the serendipitous find of a book they werenâ€™t searching for but needed. Oftentimes that lucky book is about a personâ€™s life or experience; one that echoes the readerâ€™s own experience. We all rejoice when we find our own face â€” or, more resoundingly, our own heart â€” reflected in a book.
Reading othersâ€™ stories
We get to share in each othersâ€™ stories by reading memoirs, biographies and other books. However, we also commune by talking to one another. The term â€” living libraries â€” takes on whole other meaning with the following books and projects:
â€œHumans of New Yorkâ€ series by Brandon Stanton â€” A three-book anthology of stories Stanton collected on the streets of New York from everyday people: “Humans of New York,” “Humans of New York: Stories,” and “Little Humans.” (Available in multiple PCLC libraries.)
More of Stantonâ€™s work can be found online at http://www.humansofnewyork.com/.
The Human Library (http://humanlibrary.org/) makes it possible to check out with human â€œbooks.â€ The program consists of people who volunteer to be â€œhuman booksâ€ and participants in the event can “read” the book or have a one-on-one conversation with the volunteers.
Thousands of print memoirs and biographies are worthy to be read. Here are a few definite reads you might not have heard of:
â€œIt’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and Warâ€ by Lynsey Addario â€” Addario, a war photographer, recounts her life story of her relentless pursuit of truth, in virtually every major theater of war in the 21st century. She documents, with clarity, beauty, and candor, often in their most extreme moments, the complex lives of others. (Available in print at Lakeland and Winter Haven.)
â€œOrdinary Lightâ€ by Tracy K. Smith â€” Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Smith has penned a coming of age memoir, examining home and place against the backdrop of race, faith and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. (Available in print at Outpost 27.) Smith is the newest Poet Laureate of the United States. To find out more about her appointment, visit https://www.loc.gov/item/prn-17-083.
â€œWhen Breath Becomes Airâ€ by Paul Kalanithi â€” Thirty-six-year-old medical student Kalanithi, at the start of his neurosurgery career, is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Follow his altered/altering journey and ponder along with him, â€œIf the weight of mortality does not grow lighter, does it at least get more familiar?â€ (Available in multiple formats at multiple PCLC libraries.)Â
Telling your story
I always advocate for reading but how about trying your hand at writing your own story? If you donâ€™t know how to start, why not join one of the many writing groups (http://www.lakelandgov.net/Portals/Library/Brenda/Writers/Writing%20Apr%20%2028%2017.pdf) in Polk County. Youâ€™ll find like-minded people and fellow writers to help you on your writing journey.
You can also take a look at these books:
â€œHow to Write a Memoir in 30 Days: Step-by-step Instructions For Creating and Publishing Your Personal Storyâ€ by Roberta Temes â€” Temes offers step-by-step techniques for writers to tell their own story. The book includes information about self-publishing and traditional publishing. (Available in print at Jackson Branch Library.)
â€œThe Truth of Memoir: How to Write about Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrityâ€ by Kerry Cohen â€” â€œThe Truth of Memoir” illuminates, with graceful detail and revelatory examples, the fears and joys of writing and publishing a memoir.â€ â€” Sue William Silverman, author of “Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir.” (Available in print at Lakeland Public Library.)
Â Your story is your libraryâ€™s story
Weâ€™d love to hear how we librarians and library staff contribute to your story. Inside Lakeland Public Library (100 Lake Morton Drive), add your story to our ongoing display: Your Story is Our Story â€” Tell us your library story. If you use other PCLC libraries, why not email or snail mail them a note letting them know how their library impacts you.
Want more opportunities to engage others? Book and movie discussions are easy ways to explore new worlds. Most of the PCLC libraries host book discussions. Lakeland Public Library also hosts i2 film club, an international independent film discussion. You can also find information about discussions at each libraryâ€™s respective website, which can be found at http://www.mypclc.org/libraries.
Meeting each other on the page (as well as in person) reminds us our collective stories make one story: the human story.
Brenda Joyce Patterson is Fine Arts/Adult Programming Librarian at Lakeland Public Library.