October 11, 2008KR BlogUncategorized

A GPS Library Tour

I get lost.

That is, a trip to the grocery store could easily become a trip to an abandoned parking lot one town over. A voyage to my mother’s house in Georgia has become a trip to a rest area in Tennessee. Twice.

And that’s why I only got to know one library in Greensboro, NC–Jackson Library on the UNCG campus. Until a couple of days ago, it had everything I needed. Then I discovered Octavia Butler… and the terrible fact that Jackson Library does not have a copy of Fledgling.

Fortune smiles. I recently came into a GPS navigation system, and it includes a list of “Public Buildings” in Greensboro. It took four years and a talking screen to find the following places:

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This branch is new, located in what used to be a strip mall. Its neighbors are a coin laundry and a dollar store. It features an entire wall devoted to “homework help,” a large section of African-American books, and an entire room for “community help.” Most–if not all–of the children playing on and waiting for the Internet were black.

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This, the central branch, is located in downtown Greensboro, across the street from the Children’s Museum. It’s the A & T Homecoming Weekend, which means the soul music floating on the air outside of the library was nothing extraordinary. A couple of people waited in line at the cafe inside of the library. This library has a cheerful hum and bright, but not overbearing, lights. I found a copy of White Oleander on CD, but no Fledgling.

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This library is less than a mile away from my aunt’s house–a place I’ve visited at least twice a week for the past five years. I don’t know how I missed it. Its interior features a hollowed-out tree trunk in the kids’ area and wooden rowboats floating overhead toward a cottage covered with letters.

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The navigation system had a difficult time finding this one–even though it’s less than three miles away from my apartment. Here I found the Butler novel as well as a novel by a Turkish author. To save time, a patron can check out books herself, without the help of a librarian. The book return talks, and there will have a butterfly garden soon.

Before my GPS library tour, I didn’t know the literary terrain of Greensboro. I didn’t realize before that there could be so many flavors of library–that even a neighborhood’s book selection could reveal a great deal about the other resources available to its people.

It’s a new town.