Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O'Nan: That's Where the Books Are

"The library is the most responsive and responsible public institution. It gives you something you can't get anywhere else.

When I was very young my mother took me to the bookmobile and that was the very first instance I had where there were free books, a whole, almost, bus full of free books.

And from there I went to the Carnegie Library in Oakland, the main branch, where I go to now. I live in Pittsburgh. I moved back.

I was there this week, in fact, I've got some books which I took out Christy Hodges, Oh, Edgar Couret, one of my favorites and which I just finished today on the plane Gilbert Sorentino, "The Abyss of Human Illusion," a book I wouldn't have found without the library.

I bring my children to the library, and sometimes I ask my wife to pick up things for me. but I'm there almost everyday.

I kind of haunt the library. You know Willie Sutton said, was asked, why do you rob banks? He said because that's where the money is. I go to the library because that's where the books are. And they're free.

Well, a recent favorite, Alice Pense at the Avon Free Public Library in Avon, Connecticut. She helped me with, I want to say, six or seven of my books, when I needed to find things, I would go to the reference librarian.

When I was going to write a book about the Hartford Circus fire, I decided I needed to know more about Hartford, I needed to know more about circuses and I needed to know more about fire, so I went to Alice and we worked on it together and put a lot of information together. And she's been that way for all the fictional books I wrote when I was up there.

I really miss my library up there. I mean the Pittsburgh Library System is great, but to have a sort of home town library, where you walk in and it's like Cheers, everybody knows you.

[On budget cuts] The cuts to the budgets in libraries, is really sad because I think the library is the most responsive and responsible public institution. It gives you something that you can't get anywhere else. You can't do this in any of other... any other commodity will not be given away for free. There are not people that will teach you and take you places that you've never been before. You can't get that from any other public institution. Only at the library.

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Book Title: 

A Prayer for the Dying & The Good Wife,

Library Name: 

Carnegie Library in Oakland