Writer’s block is a funny thing. It can completely derail your writing process, or be an odd source of inspiration. This is what my experience was while writing this article: in the midst of a packed schedule and overlapping deadlines, I found myself in need of inspiration after devoting so much emotional bandwidth already to other assignments, projects, and personal obligations. So, oddly enough, I found inspiration in the jam-packed bookcase next to my desk as I stared blankly at it, trying to find the right topic to discuss as we continue to navigate the unprecedented state of our collective affairs and progress into another presidential election.
During the unprecedented year 2020 has been to date, I’ve found myself in a reflective mood more times than I can count; which has elicited a wide range of emotions as I try to navigate the last year of my graduate school journey, which is emotional all its own. So, needless to say, I’ve been feeling all of the feelings a lot all while being knee-deep in assignments, projects, and other personal obligations; which has made for quite a few interesting, albeit emotionally exhausting, days. Thus, during these rougher days, I’ve often found solace in, among other things, the books on my bookcase as I try to make sense of everything.
Books have always been a source of comfort for me from childhood onward, so this is a habit that has been cultivated over quite a bit of time. Overflowing and creatively organized as my books have now begun to exceed the space available on any given shelf and require stacking to be accommodated, my bookcase essentially functions not only as the house for a continuously growing collection of many of the books I’ve read over the years, but serves as a glimpse into all of the different life stages I have navigated through to date. Books I read as a child and teenager reside next to books I read as an undergraduate student and, more recently, have read as a graduate student; all organized by height and showing where I’ve been and where I hope to go going forward as I continue to actively work on making myself the best version of myself I can realistically be partly via what I read.
Thus, this has made weeding very difficult as I feel like I’ve discovered other parts of myself in the books I’ve read; and, in turn, I feel my bookcase functions as an extension of me in a way as it has factored into how I’ve grown into who I am today. I’ve grown a lot as the result of the books I’ve read and life experiences I’ve encountered in them over the years; which relates to a beautiful passage I read in Susan Orlean’s The Library Book last year:
“In Senegal, the polite expression for saying someone died is to say his or her library has burned. When I first heard the phrase, I didn’t understand it, but over time I came to realize it was perfect. Our minds and souls contain volumes inscribed by our experiences and emotions; each individual’s consciousness is a collection of memories we’ve cataloged and stored inside us, a private library of a life lived. It is something that no one else can entirely share, one that burns down and disappears when we die. But if you can take something from that internal collection and share it – with one person or with the larger world, on the page or in a story recited – it takes on a life of its own.”– Susan Orlean on page 93, paragraph 3 of The Library Book
As a result, in reading all of the borrowed and bought books I have read, I feel I’ve connected to so many people, fictional and real, and experienced events and lives I may not otherwise have experienced and subsequently found solace in and grown from those shared experiences and emotions. While I acknowledge I may not be able to fully insert myself in and understand the lives of those I connect to within the books I read, especially when it comes to memoirs and other nonfiction; I feel I can still connect, empathize, and learn more about myself while learning about the realities others face and experiences others have had.
Thus, this is one of the many goals I hope to accomplish with the patrons I hope to ultimately work with after graduating from library school: to help others discover other parts of themselves in the books and materials they check out and find comfort in and experience growth within them along the way. Our humanity is our superpower; so, as librarians, I feel we need to exercise that as best we can as I feel the right book or materials at the right time can possibly change a patron’s life and help them grow further into the best version of themselves via the experiences and emotions shared with them.