The Provenance of Ambition

Libraries are built from a variety of architectural blueprints, and yet they all share a common denominator: they are a place where cultural inequality coalesces into a reading community.

Those with no education, or money, are welcomed and encouraged by librarians the world over to become active members of their own library.

In a society where schools and financial aid have failed them, the library card does not. This golden ticket not only opens the door to their curiosity, it is the quintessential all access card to the written word.

Many first learnt to read within the sanctum of their library. Others passed exams based on the study materials they could borrow, that they otherwise could not have afforded to buy. A library is more than bricks and mortar. A library changes lives.

Furthermore, a high percentage of every novel on a library’s shelves was written by an author who first fell in love with books by visiting their library.

Where digital flounders and print excels, is the ability for a writer to experience the very physicality of the book itself. Browsing shelves, absorbing the aroma of the page, and gaining an awareness of book jacket styles, is an essential part of a writer’s education.

To understand what it means to be a writer, one must first comprehend the form itself.

How are genres distinguished by their cover artwork? How much space does a five hundred page novel take up on a shelf? Which titles make you want to pick them off the shelf? Only by having such a large cross-section of fiction at your disposal can you begin to grasp the tangibility of literature.

The words themselves during an initial perusal are hard to distinguish from an adjacent book by another author. But if you align comparable novels on a library desk, and study how their chapters fluctuate, you will begin to understand story structure and style. What is it about each, which earned them publication? What techniques are used to link scenes and chapters? Which opening paragraphs hook a reader the most? A few weeks, or preferably months, of this library exercise, would invariably enable the writer to assimilate the author mindset, into how they approach their own writing. Consequently, their fiction would receive less rejection, and more praise.

Those attuned to the craft, such as literary agents and publishers, can quickly discern the proficient writer from the novice.

But perhaps the most significant role a library has played in a writer’s life is that it is often the first place where their reading formulated into an ambition. Their eyes drifting from the page, to the endless rows of book spines, saw not a subsequent read, but an imaginary gap where their own book would sit. What it would feel like to see their novel plucked from the shelf by a reader? Or how many of their spines could they envisage? If these names were to endure for future generations, then why couldn’t their own?

A library is the fountain of inspiration that has initiated countless readers to become authors.

From the wide-eyed wonder of that first visit, to the endless hours of reading, grew a hankering for literary immortality. A library where one day their own novel would be endlessly borrowed, and they too might return to for its author talk and signing.

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