This one is a personal story.
In the summer of 2001, I discovered Anna Quindlen. I remember it very clearly because it was the summer I graduated from college and the same summer I was interning at Kiwanis International for Key Club Convention. One night, I was alone in my hotel room in Indianapolis, flipping through channels on the television. (I feel like when you’re alone in a hotel room, you sometimes find channels you don’t always see when you’re at home.) I found Book TV on CPSAN, and I paused to listen to an interesting woman talking about things that resonated. Turns out it was Anna Quindlen. I had never heard of her, but I liked what she was saying.
It was awhile after that before I started reading her work, but when I did, I was drawn in immediately. I appreciated her strong voice, the way she was real with her words and feelings, and her views on feminism. In short, she was quality, and I wanted to get involved. I set out to read to read all of her work.
(I could say then that I admired her – and I definitely still do. I can say now that my goal to someday write a column or a book (or have this blog) was inspired first from reading her work and hearing her express her thoughts. Others have since made an impact on my vision, but she was the first.)
Shortly after I moved to Northern Virginia – this was probably 2002/2003 – I tried to find one of her books at the Fairfax County Public Library, and I was surprised it was not there. First of all, I loved her, so of course that means everyone else should too! But, more objectively, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her writing so surely all of her books should be in the library system – especially the library system in a county as renowned and regarded as Fairfax County in Northern Virginia. (Well, I may not have thought that last part at the time because I was still new to Fairfax County, but I definitely do now after having lived here for fourteen years.) AND the book I was trying to find was a collection of her New York Times columns that won her the Pulitzer Prize!
So, not to be deterred, I ordered a hardcover copy of Living Out Loud to read and then I donated it to the library. They accepted it with ease, putting a stamp in it that said something like “Donated by a reader like you.” It went into the system immediately. I checked the book out a couple of times for good measure, but then I forgot about it.
I did not forget about Anna Quindlen though and have since read all of her non-fiction and fiction books. When she had her Newsweek column, I followed it regularly. I’ve seen her speak at least twice and have several of her non-fiction books signed. She is definitely a favorite.
But, I had forgotten about that book I donated.
This past spring, I was trying to find a book by different author online in the library catalog and it was not there. I was surprised – and a little annoyed – and I then remembered this situation. Without really knowing what I was doing, I was suddenly searching for Living Out Loud in the catalog, and it was not there. I searched again thinking I typed it wrong word or something. Not there. Sighing, I opened another window in Chrome and went right Amazon to order it. They don’t sell Living Out Loud in hardcover anymore, but I bought the paperback, and when it arrived, I took it to the information desk at the Fairfax County Library branch closest to me and tried to donate it. I did not realize the process for donating books had changed.
I was given a form and told that there is a lengthy consideration process from a selection committee. I was also told that the library will not consider any donation that is not at least four copies of the same title because they do not like to have only one in the system.
So, I went home and ordered three more copies from Amazon. And then I brought all four books to the library branch with the form. They took them, and shortly after that, on May 15, 2016, I received an email about the donation. When I saw the subject line, I got excited, but it turned out to be an exercise in patience waiting for me:
“Thank you for your interest in the Fairfax County Public Library. The Collection Services department received your gift copies of Living out loud. The selection committee for gift materials will be happy to review the title for possible inclusion in the collection. I will let you know the committee’s decision once they have met.
We are very fortunate to receive a number of gifts from local authors and organizations, so please allow us several months to respond. Items must be approved by the Collection Services Department prior to addition to the FCPL collection.
If you have any questions about the process don’t hesitate to email me.
Thank you for thinking of the Fairfax County Public Library.”
I thought, “Several months?!” but pushed that aside to feel good that the books were in the queue to hopefully be processed. I also appreciated the communication letting me know.
I go to the library frequently, and I wondered about the status of this a lot since May, but I tried to have trust in the process and not be bothered by how long it seemed to be taking.
Finally, on September 15, 2016, I received another update:
“Thank you for offering to donate four copies of the book, Living out loud, to the Fairfax County Public Library.
After careful consideration we have decided to add this title to our collection. The books will be cataloged and added to the circulating collection at four branches.
Thank you for thinking of the Fairfax County Public Library.”
(Also, really? All this for a Pulitzer Prize author whose other books are all in the system?!)
But, okay, okay, Fairfax County Public Library accepted the books and they are there now.
That is the important thing, and I’m glad.
But, really, the important thing is that someday, some other young person is going to discover this quality author. And that young person will want to read everything she wrote and will expect the library to be able to assist. And then, maybe because of the author’s books, that young person will be inspired to think about his or her own dreams.
And, as in my case, maybe years after discovery, will have a place to write about it all in a blog, which is a kind-of a very, very distant cousin to having a column. 😄
If you’re reading this and live in Fairfax County, Virginia, please consider checking out this book from the library. (You can search it online here.) I know one reason books are culled out of the system is because they are not checked out often enough. I’d love not to have to donate this book for a third time. 😉
You can learn more about Anna Quindlen and her work here.