Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Milton H. Latter Memorial Library: A bibliophile's refuge

The first month I spent in New Orleans was lonely, empty and frustrating. After spending almost four days on the road together, my sister and I had a huge fight that culminated in her earlier-than-expected departure and my subsequent depression. Yes, I had finally made it to the city of my dreams, but now I was alone (just me and my shih-tzu Pippin), nervous, a little scared, living in an empty apartment and clinging to the desperate hope that the rest of my belongings would soon arrive. The movers were scheduled to come only three days after I reached the city, but they didn't actually show until almost a month had passed.

Yep. For an entire month it was me, Pippin, my trusty air mattress, about a week's worth of clothes and dust bunnies that rolled across the hardwood floors like tumbleweeds. Though my dog and I enjoyed long walks through the Garden District and playing in Audubon Park, those outings only took up small parts of each day. Sure I went to the grocery store, meandered through the shops on Magazine Street and even dined alone at some wonderful neighborhood restaurants, yet I still became incredibly anxious to begin my new life. I mean, I had to get a job, didn't I? After only a few days I started missing my friends in California, missing my family, missing the familiarity of my old life... and I really missed my books.

You see, I love books. I love getting lost in a great story, love the feel of the pages in my hand, love the musty smell of a well-read tome. Friends keep telling me these days about the wonders of owning a Kindle and though I can see the appeal, I just can't bring myself to walk away from my beloved, burdensome, bulky, beautiful books. As geeky or lame as it may sound, books have been dear friends to me almost all of my life, from the day I could pick one up and read for myself, I have been enraptured by books. They have been there for me when "real friends" have faded away. Believe it or not, books have helped me weather some of the most difficult times in my life.

So, after a few days of wallowing in emptiness, I searched through the telephone book for the nearest library branch and it happened to be a gorgeous former mansion, the Milton H. Latter Memorial Library.

In the next several weeks, I spent a good part of every day at the library. I used the computers upstairs to check my email, re-crafted my resume and sent it out to potential employers. I browsed the library's modest collection of fiction and local authors, checked out several books that were returned in only a few short days after devouring them in the seemingly endless evening hours while rain poured from the sky during that muggy, wet June.

When the movers finally arrived, I took a break from the library to get my apartment on Harmony Street in order, but I still found time at least once a week to  return the books I had read and check out new ones. These days, I don't get to the library very often anymore, but I can't help but smile when I drive past it on St. Charles Avenue. I will never forget how that wonderful refuge got me through those first weeks in a strange, new town.

I do, however, try to make it for the weekly book sales put on by the Friends of the New Orleans Public Library that take place behind the library in the carriage house every Wednesday and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm. In fact, just this past Saturday, I went to the book sale and purchased 17 different titles, ranging from trade paper to hard cover and all in good condition, for a grand total of $18! In fact, I am planning on returning for the 5th anniversary of the FNOPL's weekly book sale happening Saturday, March 19th and Wednesday, March 23rd when everything will be an additional 50% off!

Does anyone have a wagon I can borrow?


Judy Thorne said...

I just stumbled on to your blog and I love it!!! I'll be back over and over again because you write about things I am interested in. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Thanks so much judyb!

Todd-Michael St. Pierre said...

I love, love, love that library Kim! Truly, madly & deeply! ;^)