An Ode to Libraries

Kathleen Delaney with BooksKathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about the wonders of libraries and why they are so important to us all.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016.

We didn’t have a whole lot of books in our house when I was growing up. At least, not a lot of books we owned. There wasn’t much money to spend on ‘extra’s’ and my mother’s theory was, why buy a book when you’re only going to read it one time. Go to the library.

And go to the library we did. I got my first library card when I was in kindergarten. You could get one when you were old enough to print your name and I was determined. I learned to print and got the card. I also got books. Lots of them. My mother was an avid reader and we went weekly. She chose my father’s books for him, and my brother’s, but stopped picking out mine at an early age. I knew what I wanted. Books about dogs, cats and horses, and as I got a little older, murder. Not much has changed.

I discovered later that our lack of owned books had more to do with lack of money than lack of desire to own them. In later years, her bookshelves overflowed. But she never stopped going to the library. The day she died, she had library books waiting to be read on her bedside table.

My bookshelves started to overflow much earlier. When Christmas approached or when my birthday loomed, I asked for one thing. Books. Little Women, Pollyanna, Big Red, Smokey the Cowhorse, Beautiful Joe, Lassie, on and on, I acquired books, and didn’t read them once. I read them over and over. I could recite whole passages buy heart. The little white bookshelf in my bedroom groaned under the weight.

But I didn’t stop going to the library.

It was there I discovered some of my favorite authors, many of whose books I later purchased. The library was a paradise of riches, all those books just waiting for me, tempting me with their stories, the new people I would soon meet, the adventures I would take. There is no way I could have purchased all of the books I have borrowed from the library. Some I loved and checked out more than once, some were good, some not so good, but each one taught me something.

So, it was natural that when I was first published my greatest wish was to see my books on library shelves. However, as I got further into the writing world, I kept hearing that libraries were a thing of the past, that library sales were not important, that libraries only bought a few copies and the people who frequented them never bought books.


Then why were my bookshelves full of books by authors I’d first discovered through the library? Was I the only one? Somehow I doubted it. I think lots of people browse their libraries looking for new authors to follow. Just the other day I got an e-mail from a woman thanking me for the Ellen McKenzie mysteries. She has read the whole series twice. I don’t know for sure, but would not be surprised if she found her first Ellen mystery at her local library and, as a writer of mystery fiction, I deduce that she must own at least some of the books if she just read all of them for the second time. And, she is starting the Mary McGill canine mystery series. Is she going to buy Purebred Dead and Curtains for Miss Plym? I don’t know. She may check the first one, Purebred Dead, out from her local library. Both books are in lots of them. If she likes it, she just may buy Curtains for Miss Plym and then maybe Blood Red White and Blue, which will be out next spring.

Libraries offer more than books to take home and read. They sponsor events which benefit both author and reader. Book clubs, for instance, for adults and for children, our future readers and buyers of books. They schedule talks and workshops which feature authors who will come to the library for no fee other than the chance to talk about their books, and sell them. That’s a win win. Libraries have been quick to realize the worth of the e-book. They almost all purchase, and lend, a wide variety of them. A plus for all those who like to read on their tablets, and another avenue for sales, and recognition for the author.

As a reader, I still haunt the library. There are so many wonderful books out there, just waiting for me, and I can’t buy them all. But if I discover an author whose work I love, I’ll probably buy the next one by her. Or him.

As an author of seven mysteries, books I am proud to say have been praised by Library Journal. Kirkus, Book List and Publishers Weekly, I am prouder still to see my books on the library shelf, and on their list of e-books available for someone, somewhere, to discover, take  home, and spend a few enjoyable hours with the characters I have created. To then have that person take the time to thank me, gives me the biggest thrill of all.

To libraries! It couldn’t happen without you.

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