Library Story: a rarity recovered


When I was writing my first novel, more than 20 years ago, the Brookline Library had a secret stash of books, the stacks. They took up all of what’s now downstairs. If you were very nice to the librarians, they’d let you explore the stacks. It was a magic world for me, full of shelves of turn-of-the-century memoirs: rare, delicious morsels of life in 1900 America and Paris.

I discovered in the stacks Olga Samaroff’s AN AMERICAN MUSICIAN’S STORY, which became one of my basic sources for the life of a young woman musician. Olga Samaroff helped me write THE VANISHED CHILD.

It’s another century now. The stacks are worldwide. “Rare” memoirs like Olga Samaroff’s are now downloadable from the Internet Archive, buyable at ABEBooks, or reprinted on Amazon. The Brookline Library lends books from all over the Boston area, and also games, videos, cake pans, and Internet access. The Ruby Carrel, the cafe, book clubs, and lounging spaces are the physical manifestations of our book-loving community. And the stacks are only a memory.

But there is something special about a book. One day AN AMERICAN MUSICIAN’S STORY showed up in the Book Sale. The same copy I’d used so many years before…

It’s on my shelves now. Of course it is. And when I look at it, I think of the librarians who preserved it then, and the librarians now who have moved and changed with the times. Knowledge is a community; stories are a community. Thanks to them who make our library a center of that community.

— Sarah Smith

Friends of the Library Book Sale
First Floor, Main Library


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