By Clare Howell
One of my first distinct memories is lying on my bed sweltering in the heat of a quiet, rural Georgia afternoon in 1957, listening to an oscillating fan, in the certainty that I was in the center of the middle of nowhere (dirt roads, endless fields of peanuts and cotton, slow-moving tractors…), then turning to the nightstand and opening my library copy of “Treasure Island,” with illustrations. My mother said I might like it. I remember being swept up with Jim on an incredible adventure, how fearsome Long John Silver was, how frightened I became for Jim on the island, and how stupefied I felt on laying the book aside an hour later to realize I was still in bed in the middle of nowhere. I finished the story that night. And I haven’t felt alone since, whenever I’ve had a good read.
A love affair with books and libraries continues to this day. Not only do stories transport me to exciting places, but I can get inside others’ minds to see how they think and what they do and what becomes of them as a result—all from the remove of my easy chair. It’s odd how made-up characters can be so affecting and instructive.
Now retired from a career as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, I read with the same intensity, and for the same reason I did as an 11-year-old. And I support my public library, wherever that is. I moved to San Miguel de Allende because of the Biblioteca Publica, which I fell in love with on a visit six years ago. Not only did I find a well-rounded collection, but I attended a wonderful evening in the performance space with a symphony conductor who sat at the piano and played Broadway show tunes and standards, taking requests long after his program. And I watched a movie at the fine theater about the life of Zapata. I knew after that week that this is the place I wanted to live.
We have a gem of a public library, gathering space, movie theater, and restaurant staffed by an eclectic mix of dedicated people. I know because I volunteer my time helping maintain the collection of English language books—the second largest in Mexico. The public library receives no government funding. It exists thanks to the active support of the community it serves.
You can support us by getting a library card, by checking out the live events and movies from the Teatro Santa Ana—all at a nominal charge—or purchase second-hand books at our gift shop (entry on Insurgentes 25). If you’re a tourist visiting for a short time, you’re welcome to attend our programming, browse, and read in one of our many quiet rooms lined with books. During my week here as a tourist, I read two books sitting in the courtyard. It’s also the best place in town to meet fascinating people. Come check us out.
If you wish to make a donation, please visit the link below. Your donation will help us purchase new books, offer free art classes, and support our scholarship programs. labibliotecapublica.org/en/donate/.