Love for the library is reprinted with Natalie's permission…
Everywhere I live, I always seek out the library. It's like trying to find a place to buy food – it's essential and I have to have it.
I love the idea of the library as the people's university, where anyone can go and learn pretty much anything so long as they can find where to look. And they even have people to help you find what you need, no matter how random.
From recipes for triple chocolate cheesecake to planning a spring wedding, from how to train for a marathon to flags of South America – librarians are specially trained as information diggers. With the advent and ascent of the Internet, they have eschewed their card catalogs for much more powerful Internet databases. Not just the Internet in general, but online magazine and newspaper archives, medical journal databases and academic sites.
I have to admit that I've had great experiences working at libraries, both in high school as a page and in college as a clerk. You really get to know the regulars, and I've been one.
I don't, as a rule, buy books because I can get them at the library, and I only read them once anyway. If I have to buy a book, I like to donate it to the library and know that it will be there if I ever need it again.
Unfortunately, my husband the historian has a different philosophy on this and thus we have two bookcases full of historical reference books like "The History of Medieval Spain" and "Hanoverian London," just in case a question comes up.
Modern libraries have changed the way they provide information. They've had to grow with technology and the needs of their patrons. It's important that they provide information services of all types to keep up with the changing public.
The Williamsburg library, in my experience, is very responsive. I'm in a book club, and they let us post flyers for it. They have "Gab Bags" for book clubs – a great idea, and one my club has used. You get a good quantity of books, about 10 or 15, and a discussion guide put together by the librarians all in one bag.
One of the best services I've taken advantage of is the "online reader profile" – just fill out a survey about books you've liked and disliked, genres and settings you like and a librarian will suggest books for you.
Some are similar "read-alikes," and a few are parallel but different. I've found some of my favorite new authors that way and I am working my way down their recommended list.
The library also has lists of "read-alikes," so if you like Dan Brown's books, try Daniel Silva or a list of genres like "small town life" or "Virginia women."
I love the Williamsburg library for its art and its location near the fountain and arbor.
I love the flowers and the window half round to read magazines. (I don't love giving up my keys for the latest issue of Glamour, but I understand why that's necessary.)
I love to get books on tape to keep me entertained on my commute, and now books on CD (it does too count as reading!) I like to get DVDs of movies or TV shows.
I like to look at the bulletin boards for local events, concerts and book clubs.
Besides being a source of information, the library here stretches its programming to include a movie series that is thematic and creative. The Dewey Decibel concert series is well-received and well-attended – I've often had trouble getting tickets at the last minute.
The library also displays art from local artists near the theater and in the hall.
The James City County library is part of the Williamsburg Regional Library system, and its modernist building is located off Croaker Road, in the upper county near Norge. I go there only occasionally, but I think with the population growth there it will be more used in the future. They actually seem to have a larger collection of books on tape and DVDs, but it might be the same amount taken out less often.
The other two libraries in town, the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary and the John D. Rockefeller library at Colonial Williamsburg, are other resources. They are more specific than the regional public library, but still open to the public. Although check-out privileges are limited, you could go and read or research.
The Swem would be a good place to find periodicals that are field-specific, such as the Journal of Canadian Studies or the Cambridge Journal of Economics. Both of these libraries are more academically focused and have special collections that could help with any specific research you might undertake. The "Rock" has periodicals focusing mainly on conservation and archaeology, and you must be a Colonial Williamsburg employee to borrow materials.
Both the Williamsburg Regional Library and the Swem Library have resources for research genealogy, or the study of your ancestors. These resources include census records, newspaper clippings and other ways to track down those family tree branches.
All in all, the libraries of our community make it a better and smarter place to live, for all those savvy enough to take advantage of them. Our tax dollars are spent to make sure that equal access to information is available for the citizens of this community. I haven't even begun to cover the services that libraries provide.
I encourage anyone looking for ideas, information or resources to stop by and speak to their friendly neighborhood librarians.