My writer’s imagination always gets thrown into my luggage wherever I go. I like to get a sense of what it would like to live where I am traveling. I imagine where my house or apartment would be and where I would work. I look at stores where I might shop and other places I consider essential in a community. There are two primary places I find the pulse of a local. They are the grocery story and the library.
At the grocery store, I watch what local people are buying, how high or low are the prices, and whether people buy in quantity or in small amounts. It’s a fascinating way to feed my voyeur proclivities without inviting the attention of local law enforcement.
Tucking into the local library is equally as safe and intriguing. Sometimes the library is actually a tourist highlight. I never fail to gasp when the Long Room at Trinity College in Dublin which I’ve visited several times. Sitting on a bench looking up and down at ancient tomes is a welcome relief and departure from frantic pub hops.
Often I will have to work while I travel. It’s the perfect excuse to pop into a local library. I accomplish whatever work task that needs attention and I restore my traveler’s stamina by basking in the tranquility of the library.
I finished writing a book at the Mystic Public Library in Connecticut while my husband went to some reunion activities that didn’t require a spouse. The library is so Victorian even the plants are vintage. I didn’t want to leave.
Once on the eve of a vacation to St. John, in the U.S. Virgin
Islands, a judge ordered me to submit a brief ten days later. I was not happy with that judge and was determined she would not deter my travel. I went to St. John as planned. I crossed Pillsbury Sound on a ferry from St. John to St. Thomas for five days and found the courthouse law library. While not my favorite way to spend a vacation, I nestled into the quiet and dug in. My view was not at all shabby. People sometimes don’t realize that libraries have windows and oft
en overlook oceans, ponds, and greens.
One of my favorite libraries is right on St. John, the location for the Sabrina Salter series. The Elaine I. Sprauve Library suffered some damage during Hurricane Irma but has survived and reopened. It is a charming West Indian structure with shining wooden tables and bookshelves filled and waiting for islanders.
Regardless of the reason you find yourself in a library while traveling, you can be assured of one thing. You will always be welcome. That’s the universality of libraries.
What library gems have you found during your travels?