Thursday, May 26, 2016

Libraries, history and mystery

Like many people, I to read and there are so many books available. I can’t afford to buy them all. A solution is the public library. Libraries offer you books, free (as long as you return them in time).
Part of the appeal of public libraries is the wide variety of books and other reading material available. 

We take this privilege for granted, but libraries weren’t always free. Those that did exist were generally subscription libraries, where there was a membership or similar fee required.

It is hard to believe that public libraries didn’t begin to become more common until after the Civil War. Now there are more than 16,000 public libraries in the United States.

Although I am a high-volume library user, I hadn’t given too much thought to the institution until a recent 65th celebration of the opening of the Davis Library in Westminster, MD. It was the predecessor of the Carroll County Public Library system.

Lynne Wheeler, Executive Director of the library, talked about how the county’s library service began in 1863. Previously dues and fines supported a small library, which was only open on Fridays.

In Jan 1949, Mr. and Mrs. Walter H Davis announced that they would give a building to Westminster for a library and would provide an endowment for its support in the future. The small library donated their books and the library system grew from there.

The difference one person can make was stressed often during presentations by Christina Kuntz, Westminster branch manager; Sharon Yingling, Friends of the CCPL; Steve Wantz, president of the County Commissioners; and Caroline Babylon, of Davis Library Inc. Also mentioned was the difference a public library can make to individuals and to a community.

Paul Zimmermann gave a brief performance as Walter L Davis, who opened one of the first car dealerships in the country in 1910, gave the town a public library and ensured that it could continue to operate.

Joyce Muller, of the CCPL Board of Trustees, lived only a few blocks from the Davis Library. She remembered going there about twice a week, beginning when she was and six years old.

The “Remembering Davis Library” video, by Jennifer Boatman featured Jonathan Slade, Elaine Adkins, Barbara Beverungen, Kevin Dayhoff, Jane Sharpe, Sharon Yingling, Caroline Babylon and Mimi Ashcroft. Many others, including me, shared stories as they enjoyed cake and Hoffman’s ice cream.

I remember going to the Davis Library on Main Street. Like many, the dazzling white exterior and cathedral-like atmosphere took me to another world. It was intimidating in some ways, unlike the more people friendly libraries of today. Still the books called people in, to browse and to read.

Libraries are great examples of democracy, open to people of all ages, economic status, race and education; they offer access to all types of material in various types of media.

If you haven’t been to a library recently, I recommend that you go see what is going on now. Rather than becoming outdated, libraries are in the forefront of education. It’s smart for us, our children and grandchildren to take advantage of what they have to offer.
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Wait, you ask. Where is the mystery part of this blog? I discussed a particular library and some of its history, but there obviously is no mystery about that.

Well, as I worked on this particular blog during the past several weeks, I kept changing its focus. Finally, during one of those 3:00 a.m. epiphanies, I thought about doing a blog on mystery books that revolve around libraries, book clubs, or book collectors.

It was hard to decide which to finish and publish first. I kept going back and forth and then decided to publish them at the same time – two blogs in one.

To use a cliché (ouch, I knew I shouldn’t do that) but I thought it might be easier to kill two birds with one stone. (Did you get the reference to kill?)

Murder isn’t usually associated with libraries but writers seem to have fun as they combine the usual safe, secure feeling of a library with murder and mayhem.

Once I discovered these books, I couldn’t get enough of them, particularly mystery series where I could follow the main characters through their problems and successes. Most of these are cozies (see – again that safe feeling), murder without a lot of blood and gore.

Some of the series that I am familiar with include:
Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s mysteries; Lorna Barrett’s Booktown mysteries, Ian Sansone’s and  Laurie Cass’ bookmobile mysteries, Ellery Adams Books by the Bay, Victoria Abbot’s and John Dunning’s book collector mysteries, Lucy Arrington’s Novel Idea Literary Agency mysteries, Eva Gates’ Lighthouse Library mysteries, Miranda James’ Cat in the Stacks mysteries; Cate Carlisle’s Bibliophile mysteries, and Ali Brandon’s Black Cat Bookshop mysteries.

Reading these allows me to enter different lifestyles and gives me a puzzle to solve. The characters and I share the same love of books. Fortunately, I haven’t been involved with murder or theft in real life. In most stories, the guilty party is discovered, will pay for his/crime and the world is safe again.

Many  stand-alone mysteries also are set in libraries or other book related venues, as well as non-fiction books, such as Dewey by Vicki Myron. That library cat became famous around the world, although I don’t think he ever solved a mystery.

But whether you like biographies, thrillers, romance, sports, historical fiction or other genres, the library is the place to go. Once you find authors you really like, head to your local bookstore. Whether you prefer the printed word, Nook, Kindle, other e-books or audio, just enjoy the story and remember the library is there if you want to try something different. There is no mystery about that.

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