Mar 29, 2013

Half a dozen years

Birthday cake
Photo credit

It’s my birthday! Well, not really my birthday, but things mean a lot is six today. Half a dozen years: where did the time go? And who would have known that I’d still be here all this time later? Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much the seemingly minor decision to start a blog in early 2007 has shaped the course of my life. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t be on my current career path if not for blogging, and the things I’ve learned from the online reading community inform my work every day. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.

Speaking of work, I thought you might like to know that my adventures in public libraries continue to go well. In addition to my regular hours at a very busy central library (one of the top five busiest in the UK, as per last year’s stats), I’m now doing two days a week at a small branch on the outskirts of the city, where I’m a solo worker. It’s been a very different sort of experience: this library mostly serves an elderly population, and because things are much quieter than at my main workplace, I have time to interact with each person more leisurely. I also get a lot of people who clearly stop by at least partially for that human interaction; people who are eager to discuss whatever books they’re returning with me and to ask my thoughts on what to check out next (hooray, reader’s advisory!).

Working there has been a good reminder of how difficult it is to quantify the value of certain services. If you look at usage stats alone, you’d probably think this branch was failing – some mornings we get no more than a dozen visitors. But after spending some time there, you quickly realise just how much that small library’s continued existence matters to the people who actually use it. As I said, it mostly serves an elderly population, some with mobility problems; these are people who might not be able to travel all the way to the city centre to go to the library. But because we’re there, they get to visit a comfortable and familiar place that obviously adds a lot to their quality of life.

Other than that, I’ve also been having a lot fun doing display. They are, as a friend aptly put it the other day, like “visual lists of recommendations”, and it’s extremely satisfying to see people take them up and walk out with one of the books. I did this for International Women’s Day; I did one with past winners of the Carnegie Medal for the YA library; and now I’m working on a “forgotten classics” one that will mostly consist of Persephones and Virago Modern Classics. Perhaps I’ll post pictures when it’s ready.

Anyway, because it’s my blog’s birthday, I’m going to give myself permission to be self-indulgent and ask you for two uplifting things. My writing motivation has been wavering a lot lately (hence the relative silence), and as much as I love my job, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that other people see its value too. So I’d like you two share two things with me, if you feel so inclined: one, a good memory of using the library or a reason why it made a difference in your life; two, a reason why you read blogs (it doesn’t have to be my blog, of course).

Thank you in advance for humouring me, and thank you – always – for reading. The blogging world has felt a bit fragile lately, but hopefully we’ll all still be here in a year’s time for another celebration.

60 comments:

  1. When you're a kid with a book-a-day habit, in a family with a very limited budget, libraries are everything. Just everything.

    I don't go to libraries any more. I have the income to buy all my books. But I know there's other kids out there who are just like I was. I never want libraries to go away, for all the me's, past and future, who would be lost without them.

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  2. Andrea: Yes. Thank you. This is the kind of stuff I know, of course, but it makes a difference to hear it.

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  3. Happy 6th Birthday Ana! I'm so glad I found your blog and love reading your well considered thoughts which always makes me think a little deeper about issues in the literary world. Libraries have always been a place of quiet contemplation and comfort for me and I still go to my local library every few weeks to seek out new (old) books which I don't come across on the net and to just touch base.

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  4. Happy blog birthday Ana!

    Thought on libraries--I was a kid growing up overseas, and every summer we went to stay for several months with our grandparents in the states. A trip to the library was always one of the first things we did--and the comfort and happiness of seeing my favorite books still there was huge! (Since that time, they remodeld, and ruthlessly weeded, so it's just not the same!)

    I can't imagine not being a blog reader--I don't comment much, but the comfort of knowing all the other bloggers in my mental bloggasphere are out there is much the same as knowing favorite books are still there.

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  5. I'm so glad things are going well in your career! The small library sounds wonderful - so often we forget to value human interaction and it's so important. Happy blogiversary!

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  6. Happy 6th Birthday! To answer your questions: (1) My mother took us to the local council library every Saturday morning for years when we were children. In hindsight, maybe she was having some 'me' time (!) but, also, we were exposed and made familiar with the joys of books from a very young age. I still use libraries with great pleasure - and feel wonderful comfort in library spaces - as a result. (2) What a wonderful, supportive community, who have widened my reading and fostered my confidence as a reviewer. I hope you will continue your blogging - I have gained a great deal from your posts.

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  7. I think many of us are looking back on our years as bloggers and wondered how we got here! I know I'm glad you made that decision 6 years ago! My library love for today (I have many incredible memories) will be dedicated to the one I have now, who have these amazing round tables with thematic recommendations and who deliver every book I want to my front door. For a mom who almost never has five minutes of time for herself, this is PRICELESS! As for blogging, when I started 4.5 years ago, I visited blogs to find a community. Now that I have found it, I continue to blog to maintain that "human" contact. Yes, I love the recommendations, but it is really about the people, and always has been.

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  8. What didn't libraries do for me? They gave me access to information I would never have access to otherwise, they gave me a safe space, and a possible career path. Most recent good memory: wandering up after an author reading to the library proper, my browsing sense tingling, and finding a copy of The Art of the Hobbit, which I didn't even know they had.

    The reason I read your blog is because your analysis is always calm, thoughtful, and deep, without ever been inaccessible. You have a wonderful writing voice, and it's just pleasant to spend time in your verbal domain.

    Also, yes, pictures of the displays. That is a talent.

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  9. Congratulations! That's the thing about libraries and the decisions about them - it's all about numbers rather than value :/

    The library gave me the opportunity to try more mature books easier than it would have been had I had to go to a bookstore with my mum and feel I couldn't take a stack or flick through them properly. I always remember taking Judy Blume from the library and feeling very mature (even if later disappointed because I was a bit older by then). I read blogs because of the posts, the way I can read a book think I've done a good job of analysing etc and then I'll read someone else's post and want to read it all over again. I love the discussion and the way everyone can teach something to everyone else.

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  10. YAY FOR 6 YEARS!!! And here's to 60 more!!! :D :D :D

    And Ana! I didn't realize you were working at another library now as well. And what a wonderful experience it sounds like. It's got to feel amazing knowing you're making a difference in these peoples' lives. And I'm absolutely sure you are. And really, how cool is it that you're working in two different libraries and seeing first hand how varied they can be. Librarians fill so many roles, and libraries are so powerful in so many peoples' lives.

    When I read your question about libraries, my mind said, "Gosh, I don't know." But then images just literally started popping up one another in my head. I grew up in a really small town, and we didn't have a library. And it wasn't that my parents wouldn't buy us books, but we just didn't have a lot of money so we just didn't have a ton. Ahhh, but once every two weeks I think it was, the Bookmobile came to our little town. And it was sort of like Christmas every. single. time. I always checked out the maximum number of books, and I always read every one. I have to admit I don't have a ton of strong memories from my young childhood, but I can to this day picture the inside of the Bookmobile vividly. :) And I remember when I first went to middle school in 5th grade. Our town went to a school with two other towns, one of which was much bigger and wealthier. Anyway, the first time I saw the library there I had to keep myself from crying so I didn't embarrass myself. It was glorious! This whole humungous room with with shelves which were filled with books. And in college, oh my how the library was my place of refuge! Sure, I could party with the best of them, but I just needed quiet time and yes, I actually like to study. And the library was the place to do it--it was safe and quiet and comforting. And I still have that feeling today--I *love* to work at the library--yes, I can work quietly at home on all our homeschooling stuff, but I still just love the atmosphere of working at the library.

    OMG...I totally just babbled there, didn't I? :/ Okay, I'll try to keep the blogs part shorter: 1.) friendship 2.) I learn so. damn. much. 3.) they inspire me in so many areas 4.) help me feel less alone

    And I will now shut up. Well, after I wish you a HAPPY BLOG BIRTHDAY once again! Thank you for Things Mean a Lot, Ana! Thank you so very much!!!

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  11. Well as Clare said (to paraphrase) what ISN'T good about libraries? But everyone will sing the praises of libraries, so I will opt instead to sing the praises of THIS blog, yes THIS one! It (i.e. you) has/have opened my eyes to SO MANY new books, and even WHOLE GENRES to which I would never otherwise have been exposed, and which have given me HOURS AND HOURS of pleasure. So a Very Happy Sixth to one of The Very Best Blogs!!! :--)

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  12. I went to the library once or twice with my Dad as a child so that he could research something but I never checked out a book. I remember going with my best friend and her Mom when I was about 10. I didn't have a library card and was so envious of her. Neither of my parents graduated from high school and although they are intelligent, trips to the library just weren't part of their world. When I was finally able to drive (we lived in the country, the library was 6 miles away) I went to the library, got a card and started my obsession with books. I still use the library even though I can afford to buy books (and do buy many, many books, especially reference, Persephones and vintage). I will always support the library though, simply by using it. Such an easy thing to do and if we don't use them they will go away. Librarians are my personal heroes in a way. They are fighting the good fight to keep information available to all of us.

    As to why I read blogs, I love the idea of ordinary people sharing words and images of things they are passionate about. I started using the internet well before the web was around (anyone else remember using ftp sites and the first bulletin boards?) and started reading blogs when they were fairly new as well. I appreciate the democratization of prose and design and probably lots of other things if I could think of them that the internet has brought about. I can't imagine not following blogs such as yours. Blogs are just pure pleasure to me. Happy Sixth and here's to many more.

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  13. There's been a lot of stories about what libraries have meant to people when they were kids, and many of that holds true for me, but the public library was also a godsend in my 20s.

    Shortly after graduating college, I moved to England to be with my boyfriend, who was studying at the University of Manchester (because really, when else would I be able to put my life on hold to go to England for a year? Also, he's my husband now.)

    Anyway, we were super poor and I walked *by* the main branch of Manchester library (is this where you are?) all the time between the bus and work (Bridgewater Hall, because I know you used to live there) and eventually I got myself a library card and I started reading for fun again.

    After years of mostly reading for school, rediscovering the joys of fiction for pleasure was great. As someone new to the working and commuting world, having a book in my purse for the ride between Rusholme and Bridgewater made the bus that much better.

    And after discovering the library, I no longer had to save and pinch my pennies for the bookstore. And it was a lesson I remembered as I remained a poor student.

    The Manchester library reminded me of public libraries and made me start using them again, which also made me think about applying for public library jobs, not just academic library ones, which is how I ended up where I am today.

    PS- If you're still in Manchester, please eat at Kashmiri Spice on Wilmslow for me. Thanks!

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  14. Happy blog birthday!

    Oh, the library. Even though I can now buy my own books, I still visit my library because I feel it's so important to support places of learning. As a child, going to the library held the promise of learning something new. I still feel that way when I walk into a library today. I can't but smile when I walk through the door. That sounds so sappy but it's true.

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  15. Happy sixth birthday, Ana! You know how awesome I think you are -- I hope! -- and the reason I read your blog in particular is that you read interesting books and review them incredibly persuasively. You've introduced me to some wonderful things over the years, and you've also loved things I wanted you to love. I admire your enthusiasm about the things you love, and your thoughtful generosity as a reader.

    For libraries, I use them less now that I live in New York and am in constant fear of bedbugs (if bedbugs got into my book collection I don't even know what I would do, I can't even think about it). But growing up, I loved my local library so, so, so much. I did "library days" with my friends where we would camp out in the back of the library on squishy benches and read for hours. Some of my nicest memories from childhood are associated with that library -- the way it smelled, and the locations of specific books or groups of books, and the old DOS-based catalogues. My library had (and has!) an amazing selection of books, and I feel fortunate to have had such a great experience of libraries early on.

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  16. First, I'd like to congratulate you for the six years of your blog! I know blogging is not an easy thing to do so I congratulate you on doing it for so long.
    As for the information you asked us to share, the first question is easy. My happy memory of using a library is actually of the first time I entered one when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I was an avid reader of comic books, but had not yet discovered books, and when I first stepped in a library, it was love at first reading! This was especial because it brought books to my life and they made all the difference.
    The second answer is simple too. I read blogs because I like learning more about things and reading blogs gives me the chance of coming across things that I probably wouldn't if not for someone who lives in some other part of the world that knows a bit about something and decides to blog about it. Reading blogs is also a great way to learn of books that I might never even have known existed if not for blogs!

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  17. Happy blog birthday, Ana! Also very glad you chose to start this blog six years ago. :) And very happy that your work is going so well.

    I have to admit that I have more attachments personally to academic libraries over community ones - mainly because we hardly ever used the library when I was young for various reasons, and it's at academic libraries that I discovered what I really love, which is history. Any kind of library, though, has that ability to place knowledge and experiences in your hands which you may not have been able to afford (or look out for without a guide) yourself. They should absolutely be treasured for that.

    As for book blogs - they remain my only real bookish community and were the first place that I discovered people who loved books and read as voraciously as I did and do. Geeky little girl finding her people at last. :D It has indeed felt fragile lately, with too many changes, but I still cherish it.

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  18. Before he was one year old, my son and I had visited a dozen public libraries. I love the library, because I am a promiscuous reader and also a skinflint. And also someone who finds it extremely important to have a place to go that isn't home and doesn't cost anything, a space to settle into quietly.

    Also? I check out 20 books at a time and only read three of them. I love that I can grab whatever I want.

    My blog turned eight in November (and I missed its birthday!), but I didn't start reading any other book bloggers until a year or two ago. Every time I tried to dip a toe into book blogs, I got caught up in contests, salons, and references; it seemed like everyone already knew each other. Yours was one of the first ones I really started to read, mostly because of the real reviews, and especially because of the very thoughtful, intellectual, feminist spins you put on things.

    There are two kinds of book reviews I like--the kind that are about books I'll probably want to read, and the kind that are about books whose topics interest me, but that I'll probably never read (especially hefty nonfiction). I LOVE when reviews like yours give me exposure to ideas in these great books, plus intelligent, accessible critiques, even without reading the book. It makes me smarter.

    Happy birthday!

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  19. Happy Birthday to your blog Ana! I can share that the library meant everything to me when I was growing up. I was the youngest of 9 children and always had hand me down toys. When I went to the library I got to pick out books that were just for me. I didn't own them but for a few short weeks they were "mine". Also, this library time was very special since my mom is a big reader and I bonded with her over books. I read blogs because I meet people like you and so many others who have inspired me to read more, read more often, and read more diverse selections. Here's to reading your blog for another 6 years!

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  20. Many Happy Returns of the Day!! 6 years. Wow. That is super exciting. Your blog is one of my favorites, and I am loving Lady Business to BTW. I have so much respect for your career path as well.

    I'm still too broke to buy all my books - now more than ever, really - so the library is THE BEST THING EVER. One thing I kind of hate about my current local library though...it is too mechanical...! You check yourself out via computers and a pass code. Grr. I really, really miss interacting with a librarian. I'm going to start skipping the computers and get in the (sometimes long!) line to check out with a real librarian. It'll be worth it. Ever since I was a kid my local librarians were counted among my friends - even BEST friends at times. I've always volunteered at libraries and someday perhaps I'll get my sh*t together and actually become one. :) Hurray for YOU!

    As for blogging...I started my blog in 2007 as well, but it took me ages before I got into book blogging specifically and found the incredible network that includes you. This was one of the best things that ever happened to me! Being part of a community that supports and encourages not just my reading habits, but ME, is amazing. I don't always find it in the same way where I live - especially as I travel a bit - so it's wonderful to carry a support team and a group of people to laugh and cry with and inspire and challenge me round in my pocket, more or less. Hurray for US! :)

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  21. When I was a kid, I don't know how I would've fuelled my reading habit without the library in my home town. Libraries are amazing, not just for kids but for everyone, and there should be more of them!

    As for blogging, I love the thoughtful posts you write and they've become a source of inspiration for my own reading and blogging. I'm so impressed you've been doing this for six years - congratulations! I hope we'll get to read a lot from you in the future, too!

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  22. Oh, I love my library(s) -- I use three regularly, and have a card for the fourth (just in case my regular three don't have what I'm looking for!) I love the space, I love the books, I love the fact that my local library's parking lot is crammed full all weekend long.

    and blogs! I haven't been blogging much -- too busy -- but I miss it. I think everyone is feeling busy and shifting to other things, which is sad, but I think blogs are still valuable and fun and a good way to make friends around the world. And yours especially, dear Ana.

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  23. When I was a kid my dad used to take me to the library all the time - great memories of browsing.

    And when I was unemployed, I used to have to catch a bus to my job centre apps that only ran every hour. Of course the app was set up just perfectly for me to have to get on a way early bus and to often miss the return one by a few minutes. I had very little money, so I was always very grateful for the reading room where they will let anyone sit all day without even buying a coffee.

    And the library I use now is really lovely, especially considering what a poor area it's in. You can tell the librarians really care about the way they present it and they have extreme patience in the face of some very tricky users (seriously, nearly every time I've been there for more than ten minutes something has been going down).

    Blogs - I read them for the people (like you, I'm so glad you're still blogging), but also because if I were relying on traditional sources for recs (papers etc) I would not be having as much fun reading as I am now. I'd probably be plowing through Roth and Updike while weeping.

    Happy blogging birthday :D

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  24. Happy blog birthday! It's been such a pleasure getting to know you :)

    About libraries, like a lot of people I relied on libraries for getting books to read when I was a child, but some of my best memories are from when I was just out of college and having a hard time with money, work, and everything. I used to go to the library at least once a week just to look around, not necessarily even to check things out. This was before you could access so much good information on the Internet, so I'd often spend time looking for books on things I was interested in or just an answer to a question, the way we use Wikipedia and Google today.

    And as for blogs, I read them because I enjoy knowing there are other people out there who love to read as much as I do and who read the same things I like. It's nice to learn about something other than the hot bestsellers of the day. And of course, after reading blogs for a while, it's nice to feel you know the people behind them.

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  25. Happy blog birthday!

    I have so many happy library memories it is hard to choose just one. But let's see... back in the late 90s my husband and I had just bought our first house. It was a townhouse and we loved it and it was near the main branch of the county library. The library was open until 9 on Friday nights and always busy. We'd go there nearly every Friday on a date and would spend an hour or more just browsing and discovering. We'd often find books for each other, "meet up" somewhere and sort through our finds and then take home an armful of books. And it was so much fun being around other people doing the exact same thing.

    When it comes to blogs, I like reading them because it connects me to other readers, they make me think, and I learn about new books as well as gain new insights into books I've already read.

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  26. Happy Birthday!

    Your presents:
    1) Just Thursday I went to the library to pick up a graphic novel I'd been wanting to read. Right next to it was another graphic novel that I'd been looking for. I could have sworn that I'd checked the catalogue for it, but I guess somehow I missed it. I love that serendipity in walking through the stacks at the library.

    2) I read book blogs because I need to know that other people are thinking about books like I am - reading through a social justice lens. Before blogging, I didn't know anyone who was doing that.

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  27. Although my parents were generous in terms of buying books, it was at the library that I discovered out of print novels like the ones by Victoria Holt, which I loved. They were also filled with classic Nancy Drew and Dana Girls novels which were in the original unabridged versions. I couldn't understand why the ones they sold in the bookstores were condensed and from then on somehow lacking something.

    I can't imagine my life without book blogs now. It is through them that I've discovered new books to read. I rely on the more than any established newspaper or magazine reviewer who always analyze too much and give away too much plot.

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  28. Oops, Happy Blog Birthday by the way! 6 years is ancient in the blogging world. Congrats!

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  29. Aw, Happy Blog Birthday to you! As I'm sure I've mentioned before, you and things mean a lot started me on the path to blogging, and lo these years later I'm still reading and enjoying. It's hard to keep up the reading and the writing right now, but it's quality over quantity for me, and you've got quality in spades. I still use various book blogs to keep me informed about what is out there in the book world, because as you noted relatively recently, what is popular at the library isn't what is on fire in the book blogosphere (usually). I need my book blogs to keep my reader's advisory range wide.

    Regarding libraries... well, I'm sure you know how I feel. A good recent library story: one of the fathers who comes to my parent-child book club also started coming to my adult book club too. He told me a couple days ago that before he started coming to the parent-child book club with his daughter he hadn't read a book for himself in decades. He's reading stuff for the book clubs, for his own interest, and he's started taking out audiobooks for his heinous commute. Without libraries and librarians like us, his world would be a smaller place. As you say, stats aren't everything -- we can make big differences one person at a time.

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  30. Congratulations, Ana. And thank you and all librarians for the wonderful work that you do. Visiting the tiny library my Grandmother started in her small New England town help instill a love of books deep in my soul. You do good work and you have created a thoughtful and thought provoking blog!

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  31. Ever since I was a child, when we would move to a new community one of the first things on my to-do list was to find the closest or best local library. This was especially important when we spent 3 months living in London when I was 14. No place can feel like "home" without books, and of course we couldn't buy a ton because we wouldn't want to ship them home. Even though I've lived in the same house now for almost 17 years, I still feel like the library is an extension of my "home" (and I have the stacks of books to prove it!).

    As for why I read blogs, I guess I just feel more in touch with the world when I read what other people, near and far, are thinking about and doing. The kind of information that we can't or don't really get from the news media. It makes me feel more connected in a deeper way to a wider world.

    Happy blogiversary!

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  32. Happy bloggiversary!

    I remember going to the library with my dad as a kid being the highlight of my week. I've discovered some of my favorite books at the library because I was willing to take a chance on them, and without the library I would never listen to a single audiobook because I wouldn't be able to afford it.

    I read blogs because I love reading about books and what other people think about books. I agree with you that I wouldn't be on the career path I am now (freelance writing) if not for book blogs. They led me to realize 1. that my passion is books (duh); and 2. that I would write whether I was being paid to do it or not!

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  33. The children's programming at my local library was a life saver with my first baby. Couldn't take advantage 2nd time around, as the older one won't sit still :)

    I would love to see your forgotten classics display!

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  34. Happy blogiversary, Ana! You are one of my favourite bloggers and so I was really happy to read your post. I liked very much what you have said about the branch library you work for. It sounds like a fascinating place and because of the kind of readers who visit, readers might be more interested in reading A.S.Byatt, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and other similar interesting writers. You must be having lots of stimulating literary conversations with the library members. The 'forgotten classics' display you are planning to do sounds quite fascinating. Will look forward to seeing the pictures. On the two questions you asked : I have discovered some of my favourite books through libraries. One book which I got from the library which really changed me was 'Shanghai' by Christopher New. I read it when I was in school and it made me fall in love with China and many years later when I visited China, it was all that the book promised and more. I even got a copy of New's book there :) On reading book blogs, I love reading blogs because I enjoy reading fellow readers' thoughts on books and discovering new-to-me writers. I also enjoy reading the bookish posts that you post, which talk about a literary theme or an issue which is important to bloggers and readers. I love your blog for that. Happy blogiversary again!

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  35. Libraries are so lucky to have you Ana!!! I just love the image I have in my head of people coming up to you and asking for reading suggestions or talking to you about their latest read :) And I LOVE that you're out there setting up displays and recommending amazing books to people.

    My earliest memories of books are associated with libraries. My aunt Shirley who I loved so much would pick us up from school every friday and me and my sister would go to the library with her and pick out a few books that we wanted. We got to know all of the librarians and they would sometimes pick out books that they thought we would like :) It makes me so happy that you're one of those librarians now being cemented into other people's memories of their reading history.

    As for blogs, I love the connection I make with others through them first and foremost. People like you and so many others that I never would have known otherwise who have made such a huge difference and impact in my life and have given me the courage to take steps in my life that I don't think I could have had I not met you…and a few other bloggers as I said before. It's those connections which are ultimately so important to me and whatever changes happen in the blogging world, those connections will never be taken from me :)

    Oh and happy blogiversary :)

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  36. What a great birthday comment party! Happy sixth and thanks for asking the question about why we read blogs, to share the motivation with others of us who need reminding.
    I read blogs for the enthusiasm; I don't find that many people in real life who are as enthusiastic about books as I am, so I come online for it, where I know people will jump up and down with me.
    There have been three periods in my life when public libraries have meant everything to me--once as a child, when I could go once a week and check out the maximum number allowed (ten), so I read most of the fattest books they had. Once when I was newly married, right out of college, and we were moving around the country. I learned to cut hair from a library book then. Once when my children were young, when I could introduce them to all the treasures. And this fall, when both children are in college, I'll be back at the public library, because for the next four years I won't have money for buying books.

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  37. Happy blogiversary! Congratulations on the job too. I had no idea that you found one.

    The library made a big difference in my life because growing up, my mom couldn't afford to buy me new books. Really, she couldn't afford to buy me used ones too though she did. Getting a library card as a kid, changed my life. All of it, from my dad teaching me to read to my mother buying me books to them letting me get a library card reinforced my love of books. Without a library card, I wouldn't have been able to read as much as I wanted to or as diversely.

    I read blogs for the same reason why I have one: to connect with other book lovers. Sometimes in the physical world is hard to find people who love to read as much as you so when you find your brethren online, it's almost learning to read again. The world just opens up. You become amazed that there are actually people who love the written word as much as you do.

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  38. Dearest Ana, Please please please continue writing! You've helped me discover VIDA, Megan Whalen Turner and John Green to name just a few things.

    Your blog is one of my favorite blogs to visit for its thoughtful and considered words.

    Here's why I cannot do without my regular dose of thingsmeanalot and other lit blogs:
    1) discovery of books/authors I would never have found out about
    2) the feeling of community/belonging as I do not have anyone to talk to about books with the same passion as I have in my offline life
    3) in the process of reading about reading I learn about writing

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  39. I may not be the best person re the library! the libraries we have in Sri Lanka are very few and far between and catering almost a 100% for students and their subjects and when I mean subjects I dont mean things like Art History and stuff like that. I am talking Maths, Chemistry etc. So when I visit Melbourne which I do often (three children living there) I practically go to the library daily. I have massive TBR lists now a book which I carry all the time and try to get as much reading as possible done. I love the Carnegie library in Melbourne. Books are expensive in Sri Lanka. Also the stuff that is available is the Grisham, Patterson, Cornwell type. Anything out of the ordinary does not get there.

    For blogging it is the same reason. I need to read, and I like to expand my thinking, my way of looking at something, and I like travelling so much that reading books and blogs help me to get to places I would never go to!!!

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  40. Congratulations on 6 years of brilliant blogging! :-)

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  41. Our blogs are almost the same "age" - lol. I started blogging in December of 2007 :-)

    Libraries ... when I was a kid, our public library was a poky, crowded affair, with the children's library upstairs. I used to go after school with my mother. My clearest memory of that library is coming down the stairs, and stopping on the small landings to look for my mother, so I could go straight to wherever she was browsing in the adult library :-)

    Happy anniversary :D

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  42. Oh, libraries. I love them. I used them so much when I was growing up and I discovered so many of my favorite books and authors by browsing the shelves- Patricia C Wrede's dragon series, Georgette Heyer, Terry Pratchett... All of whom have so enriched my life. And now, the library makes my daily commute so much more manageable because I can download audiobooks. It is wonderful.

    And blogs- I don't know that I can fully describe the impact they have had on me, but it has been overwhelmingly positive. I read so much more broad,y and critically now than I ever did before.

    Happy anniversary, Ana :)

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  43. Sakura: Yes - a place of quiet. This is an often undervalued aspect of libraries, but it matters so much to people. At my library we have a quiet floor and two more social ones, and you can clearly tell that people appreciate having both options.

    Charlotte: To this day I say hi to my favourite books whenever I'm in a library or bookshop :D There is indeed something very comforting to knowing they're there. And you're absolutely right; the same is true for favourite blogs.

    Kathy: Thank you so much!

    Vicki: Thank you so much - I can't tell you how much hearing that helps on the motivation front.

    Sandy: Thematic recommendations are the best, aren't they? Putting them together is definitely one of the most fun aspects of my job. And yes - the people keep me coming back too.

    Clare: *blushes* You're the nicest <3 And your recent library memory put a big smile on my face.

    Charlie: "I love the discussion and the way everyone can teach something to everyone else." Yes, absolutely, this. And as much as I've been struggling with writing lately, I want to keep on being a part of this.

    Debi: I will probably be dead by then, but fingers crossed? :P The job at the new library is temporary (until June), but it's been such a great experience and I'm so glad I had this chance. And Debi, I loooove what you say about working at the library. I've always felt the same way, and when I was in college it was life-saving because having other people working around me allowed me to stay focused in a way I just couldn't at home. Reading your comment actually made a lightbulb go on in my head - my struggles with writing/reviewing might possibly go away if I gave myself an afternoon every week or so to just write at the library. And since I finish at one every other Friday, that's kind of perfect :D

    Jill: As I told Clare, thank you so so much <3 Hearing that means the world to me, especially coming from people I look up to so much.

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  44. Tabitha: I love your comment, and I think this is something that still happens a lot - there are lots of people who are very smart, but who don't use libraries because it's just not part of the social practices of the world they inhabit. And finding a way to reach that demographic and let them know that libraries ARE for them is a huge challenge. Also, "the democratization of prose" is a lovely way to put it. Thank you so much for reading.

    Heather: Thank you!

    Jennie: Aw, your comment brought back so many lovely Manchester memories. The bus ride to Rusholme! 142/143! And the wonderful, wonderful Curry Mile (my favourite place was Beirut) <3 Sadly I'm not there anymore - I live in East Anglia now. I'd have loved to have stayed, but things just weren't going to work job-wise for either me or my partner. I knew thanks to library school that the public library system in Manchester had a hiring freeze on that was planned to last for at least a five year period. There were a few positions in academic and school libraries, but although I tried for some of those I didn't have any luck. You know what's really sad? The Central Library in Manchester was closed for refurbishing for the whole of the time I lived there, so I haven't ever even visited. It's such a lovely, imposing building from the outside, and I've never stepped in. Excuse to go back, I guess :P But I did get to use the cutest library branch ever (Didsbury) a ton :D

    Amy: Thank you! And that doesn't sound sappy at all.

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  45. Happy blog birthday! A favorite library memory...my first ever "job" was when I was 12, I volunteered at my local library. It was a very small, old library, full of history, and I felt like I found something new in there every day as I reshelved books and organized displays. It was a lot of fun.
    Why I read blogs? I especially read book blogs, and I do it because I love hearing from others that adore reading as much as I do! They inspire my reading/writing and help expand my TBR list on a daily basis. :)

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  46. Happy Blog Birthday! I'm really glad your work seems to be working well for you. It really lifts the spirits when your doing work that means so much to people. As it clearly does to the elderly people in your smaller library.

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  47. Bah!! OpenID ate my comment. Sorry - no time to rehash the whole thing, but suffice to say that I adore libraries, consider them to be vital to the health of a community and love your blog. All best, liz in texas

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  48. Happy blogoversary, Ana! 6 years old. I hope you celebrate with some cake, too :-)

    Two things you asked for:
    libraries: they matter. They really do. Wherever I've gone in my life - all over Canada, west coast of USA, England - the library is how I orient myself and start to feel I belong to a community. Getting books out to the library, getting to know the librarians, and now the internet usage they offer: libraries are still important, and we have to find a way to keep them viable.

    As for blogging: even I have been wondering what to blog about, since I don't write about books as often as I think I should. I want to, though I am finding I don't want my blog to be just about books. My life, and how books weave in and out of my life, informs it, is what I'm interested, I am realizing. My blog matters to me, and so does my life. So I write for me, and hope there are readers out there who like what I say. I hope this helps you, my friend. :-)

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  49. Happy blogiversary, and I'm so glad that the library work is going well.

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  50. Happy blogoversary! I go to the library at least once a week. A great recent memory is taking my 6 year old nephew to the library and seeing his eyes grow huge with the possible books he could read!

    The reason I read blogs is because of the community. I feel like I've made friends with fellow readers around the world and now I've learned to trust their taste in books.

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  51. I think both for me aren't just about books, but about community. You get to meet people, whether virtually or in real life and you get to share ideas, opinions, stories, whatever! Sometimes it's a nice distraction, sometimes real friendships are forged.

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  52. Argh. I'm so behind in blog reading lately I almost missed this post altogether. So glad I didn't. Happy blogoversary! Seriously, who ever expected that we'd all still be blogging all these many years later.

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  53. It's a wonderful thing you're doing, connecting with those elderly people who need you. You're one of the few actually making a difference.

    I would never have been able to develop my live of books if it wasn't for libraries. When I was a kid in the US I belonged to several and was able to check out enough books to feed my habit, which was a lot. If it wasn't for libraries, I wouldn't be what I am today.

    And I blog because of community, because of people like you Ana. Here's to another 6 years, and then more!

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  54. I read blogs because of posts like this, not just about celebrating your blog anniversary, but also a little bit about you: working at a library. As a library assistant at my small town library in the U.S., I can relate. Sometimes I wonder what difference the library makes, but like where you are, it's mostly an older population where I live and it relies on the library to...well...stay alive, sometimes. I'm glad to be a part of that.

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  55. I know I am late to comment, but happy blogiversary anyway!

    Ahhh, libraries! I love my library, visit it usually twice a week but sometimes more. Actually I need to go there this afternoon!

    I am so glad that blogging has had such a positive impact in your life!

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  56. Ana, I am glad I congratulated you on twitter the day you posted this, because with my lousy commenting I of course haven't yet taken the time to leave a comment here. However, I have been thinking a lot this week, and I realised something.. Not something big, just something that I think I take for granted more often than not, but also has to do with my shyness and not-wanting-to-feel-awkward because I am scared of professing my friendship and appreciation too often. Ugh, now this comment is going to sound conflicted because my shy self is stepping in.

    What I was going to type initially, when I first read your post, was a: "I'm so happy I found your blog, that you are still here, and that your blog and you as a person are amazing". Then I, almost as if automatically, corrected that into "as I'm sure you know". Which made me stop and wonder if perhaps in the midst of our talking about community (no, let's keep this about myself, I'll say: in the midst of my talking about the community) I tend to not express my appreciation for the people who I consider part of that community. As in: I assume you know how great your blog is, how amazing I think you are. Particularly because you are up there (although I know you probably hate the idea of being above others) among the bloggers that I think most people have absolute respect for. But who am I to assume that because you have a large following, you will know how much you are appreciated. So yes, this is me trying to show you a little extra of that: Your blog offers one of the most smart and heartfelt posts there are. You can't read it without getting to know both your kindness and be amazed at your intelligence. Plus, you are a great friend to have and having a book blog to return to only enhances that. Anyway, I am trying to stick to a resolution I think I have just come to here: to be better at showing appreciation in general, both towards long established bloggers, and hopefully to new-to-me bloggers that I find.

    Because that is what I love most about blogging. I think it might have been reading Sarah's comment that reminded me of this: it gives me a space to share with people, to become smarter, to express my thoughts and feelings about books, but it also gives me room to express myself, or other sides of myself than I am comfortable showing in real life sometime, and to feel appreciated or respected for it. It is the give and take of blogging that really makes it what it is. And perhaps that is why I feel so guilty about not commenting more often (but we will leave that for another time).

    As for libraries, I only recently started using mine again. Last year during the unemployment phase, to be exact. But it has been so great to rediscover the library as a place where they have SO MANY BOOKS, and where you can browse and borrow and plan to read or actually read a lot of the books that I was not able to afford back then. Actually, usually can't afford still.

    Okay, I think I am going to post this comment without rereading or I might just delete it because of shame/embarrasment. Remember how Jodie once said that she sometimes felt she might be making people uncomfortable while really wanting to share the love? Yep, that's me.

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  57. Oh my, longest comment ever: sorry!

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  58. Congratulations for making half a dozen years with a continuous success. I may not comment a lot, but your site is one of my favorites.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.