Have you ever had an idea or a dream, something you wanted to do, but the practicality, timing, cost, or social-acceptability presented enough seeming obstacles that you hung back? Have you ever asked, can you really do “the thing?”
A Year in the Library
I wanted to spend a year in the library. What the heck does that even mean? Lack of definition could have been my first derailment, but I’m in a season of change in life in general, so ambiguity didn’t phase me. I decided our family would spend a year in the library, and we would figure out what that meant along the way.
In fact, the openness of the idea was a great part of its appeal. I used to work in school libraries but now work in our family business. I missed the library. I missed the quiet that comes from thick stacks of books. I missed touching those books, constantly having my interest piqued by some new title.
I’m a reader, and it seems to run in my genes, because my kids are readers too, even the ones who can’t yet match letters to sounds. We read pictures; we read words; our appetite is insatiable.
So libraries are our friends. They supply our habit. We have a home library and a library home. We have many books in our home, but the latter, a place where we are known and which is part of our weekly routine, is what really keeps us reading. As New Orleanians, we also have the luxury of 13 other library branches besides our home branch – a seemingly endless option of free outings. We can go to the Magic Tree House book club at Nix, play-doh play time at Rosa Keller, have a picnic on the Latter lawn, take the ferry to Hubbell, visit the seed library at Mid City, or read on Read Blvd.
It’s not hard to spend a year in the library in New Orleans. But once we committed to this notion of loving and living in the library as much as possible, city boundaries couldn’t contain us. We went on the cheapest vacation ever, visiting ten libraries in two days across the Northshore and along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Alabama. Our year isn’t militaristic; many days we don’t make it to the library, but many, many days we do.
Our Library Adventure in New York
The creativity and possibility of the notion keeps spurring new ideas. We even went as big as the Big Apple. In early March, I took my oldest reader, my eight-year-old son Jack, to New York City on a library adventure.
We heard of an oasis called The Library Hotel and the possibility of spending “a night in the library” was just too appealing. The Library Hotel is one block from the iconic Fifth Avenue New York Public Library. Gold-plated literary quotes lay in the sidewalk, literally leading us from our hotel to the towering stone steps of the library, well-guarded by the famous lions. If you want a literary adventure, this is the place to stay. Floors are organized by the Dewey Decimal System, with each room boasting one specific topic. We were placed on the 5th floor (500s = Sciences) in the Dinosaur room. Jack was handed a book upon entering the hotel and, from that moment forward, we felt right at home. Our room had all kinds of books on dinosaurs, and we also had use of the hotel’s Reading Room, which was like a mini library with snacks! (A mini-library with snacks is an eight-year-old reader’s vision of heaven.)
We could have happily stayed in the hotel the entire trip, but New York City offered endless library adventures. While New Orleans is blessed to have fourteen branches, Manhattan boasts forty-five! From our Gulf Coast trip, I’d already learned not to waste time guessing which library to visit. Just ask a librarian! I emailed the New York Public Library, and we quickly had a list of library branches “especially historic or which might interest a child.” We were sent to the modern 53rd Street Library with its indoor reading steps and to the Hogwartesque Jefferson Market Library, among others.
Our year in the library has no rules, and neither did our trip. We stayed at each library as long as we wanted. We picked up different books to read, or we just browsed or daydreamed if we didn’t feel like reading. We carried a notebook and my phone to record any books we didn’t finish or which we’d want to check out once we were home.
A year in the library is my idea of adventure. If it sounds appealing to you, follow us on Instagram at @ayearinthelibrary and we can share ideas. The broader theme I’m discovering is that, yes, you can do “the thing.” If your idea excites you, you’ll make it practical. If your dream inspires you, then decide it is the right time. With a little extra creativity, you can doctor your idea / dream to fit into your budget. I have no doubt my kids will remember the year we spent in the library. I hope they also walk away understanding that if you can dream it, you can do it.
Could you spend a year in the library? How would that look for you?
About Courtney Landry
Courtney Landry spent ten plus years working in public schools, including building six charter school libraries in New Orleans. She now works full-time as mother to Jack, Cora, and Luke and part-time as the Human Relations Manager at Urban South Brewery, which she and her husband opened in 2016. Her musings on children’s books and library possibilities can be followed on Instagram at @ayearinthelibrary.