When I was growing up in Glendale, Arizona, one of my favorite places to go was the Main Library on 59th Avenue. I loved walking up to the main entrance, under the canopy of mesquite trees, through the desert gardens, among the peacocks and chickens that visit from the ranch next door. I loved the painted mural in the main lobby where books were circulated, with the eerie, half-clothed astronauts floating in sci-fi space, and the high windows that rose right above it, filling the large area with varying light, depending on what time of day you were checking out your books.
I remember the iridescent fish swimming in blocky tanks in the children’s area, the rabbits and guinea pigs in their cages sitting atop the stacks, the sound of their feet scratching at their bedding made of wood fibers. I would hold my little sister’s hand and take her to the shelf of the Amelia Bedeliabooks, or to the books by Stephen Cosgrove. For myself, it was L. Frank Baum’s magical Oz collection, or Ann M. Martin’s Babysitter’s Club series. I would sit down right in front of the row of candy-colored paperbacks and read one sometimes in a single three-hour sitting. Or I would gather eight or nine or fifteen of the titles in my arms, take my sister’s hand, and check them out with the librarian so I could continue at home. And the following week, I was back again.
They don’t make libraries like Main Library anymore. Libraries today are usually a single box. The different sections that seemed so important to me as a kid (the references, the biographies, the mysteries, the romances) bleed into each other. The shelves are low so that the librarian can easily see across the room, and she no longer sits behind a desk. She usually has a station with an ergonomic work stool and a flat screen computer.
When I think of what I love about libraries, I think of Main. The children’s area is separated by a hall from the rest of the library. Delighted squeals, loud discussions of animals or candy or craft supplies disturb none of the more mature patrons. The rest of the library—the grown-up side, I used to call it—is a labyrinth of corners one can fold herself into and feel alone except for the loved ones on the page.
There are places to study—alone, with a small group, divided into little cubbies. The stacks seem to soar. I have to stand on my tip-toes to reach the top shelf. Those tall stacks give the library a maze-like quality; I remember playing silent games of hide and seek among them. There is something old about it, even though the library was built 25 years ago, not 100. And when I say old, I mean it in the loveliest sense. It feels comfortable, serene, studious, and it hums with the many thoughts and ideas housed between the covers of the beloved books.
It is difficult for me to make it over to Main Library these days. When I visit my family in Glendale, I find little time to steal away to this beloved place. But sometimes when I am working a stressful week, a week filled with buying groceries, removing grape juice stains from T-shirts, grading junior high student papers, and meeting writing deadlines, I think back to this special place. I think back to sitting at a table by the bank of floor to ceiling windows, a fresh notebook in front of me, ready to be filled with the characters from my head, the world I create on the page. I imagine turning to see a peacock with its goldish green tail feathers fluttering across the desert landscape as it walks by. And I am filled with the most exquisite sense of peace.
Riley Witt is running out of time.Battling Alzheimer’s disease, Riley’s grandmother Mary suffers from memory loss, mood swings, and a tendency to wander off. As senior year approaches, Riley has to face the reality that the one person she depends on most is slowly fading. Making matters worse, when Mary does remember the past, she tells tales of time travel and visions. As Mary’s version of the past gets more confused, Riley knows they are running out of time together.
But when Riley discovers a guitar belonging to a famous rock star at Mary’s house, the truth behind the crazy tales finally comes out.
SIX STRINGS tells the story of Riley’s journey back to 1973 where she enters a world of music, long-lost family, and first love. Her adventure is all about discovering her past, understanding her present, and figuring out how to step into her future.