Abington Library Local Author Expo: There’s No Place Like Home

Abington Township Free Public LibraryI lived in Abington Township for 32 years, so the Abington Township Free Public Library is my “home” library. I spent a great deal of time there in the pre-computer age, doing research for papers and reading for pleasure.

So attending Abington Library’s Local Author Expo on April 16th was like coming home. If felt so comfortable, even though the library has been renovated since my youth. The staff was welcoming, and made sure to come around to all the author tables to see what we had on offer. Librarians and authors are natural partners, after all!

Author Kerry Gans at Abington Library's Local Author Expo

The morning was busy, with customers wandering in from the outdoor vendors of the plant and book sales. I spoke for half an hour with one pre-published writer who had come to the library to buy debris bags for his garden! Everything went smoothly, except…

Technology is wonderful—except when it’s not. Last week my GPS sent me in a literal circle. This week, my credit card reader failed me for the first (and only) credit card sale of the day. Thankfully, the lady also had checks with her. Just to tease me, the credit card reader worked perfectly when I tested it after she had departed.

Authors at the Abington Library Local Author ExpoThe morning session was packed with authors of all genres. Chrissy Fanslau, Captain Morey, Ted Taylor, Charlene Crawford, Judith Rubenstein, Carol B. Polis, Tom Sims, Robert Walton, Jose Russo, Kevin J. McNamara, Wendy Tyson, Cheryl Rice, Chad M. Weiss, L. Ann Price, Peter W. Dawes, Javad Mohsenian, N.M. Lombardi, Toni McCloe, Leah Devlin, and Susan J. Reinhardt attended.

I arrived very close to opening time, so I ended up in the far back corner of the setup. That spot turned out to be a good one, as I got a table all to myself and it allowed space for customers to move easily around the table. It also allowed me to see out the wall of windows into the beautiful day.

The authors did half-day sessions, but I had managed to get slots for both morning and afternoon. When the morning crew went home, I moved my table to a strategic one in the front, directly at the top of the stairs leading to the children’s section. I remember those stairs well from my childhood—clattering down them was like going through the wardrobe to Narnia. A place of magic, mystery—and home of the three-legged turtle. The turtle is long gone, but the magic remains.

Abington Library Children's Department Sign

The afternoon saw visits from my parents (and daughter), brother, and Writers’ Coffeehouse friends Ann Stolinsky, Tony Athmejvar, and Beverly Black. The afternoon session authors included fellow Coffeehousers Carol Kasser and Chuck Regan, as well as other authors C.L. Lowry, Allan M. Heller, Verileah Teets, Fran Pelham & Bernadette Balcer, Debora Gossett Rivers, Madeline Wilson, Reginald Murray, Jack DeWitt, James M. Paradis, and my tablemate Clayvon C. Harris.

I had a successful and stimulating day at my home library. I sold some books, chatted with a bunch of great authors and readers, and got to breathe library air for the day. To top it off, my book, The Witch of Zal, is now available in the Abington Library, which makes me giddy.

I enjoyed this event, and I hope to do it again next year. As my protagonist Dorveday would agree, there’s no place like home!

The Witch of Zal table at Abington Library's Local Author Expo

Books and Community

Books are magic.

This childhood belief is still with me today. And since books are found in the library, libraries are magic, too. At the main branch of my hometown library, I would trot down those white steps to the Children’s section, where they had all these books JUST FOR ME.

When I was a little older, I would ride my bike to the local library branch. It was only as big as two and a half garages, but I loved going in there. It was intimate and I knew where all my favorite books lived, which only reinforced the feeling that IT WAS MINE. My Camp Fire Girl troop decorated it for Christmas every year, and that bolstered this feeling of possession.

Even in college, when the library was on a much grander scale, I would walk though the doors and a peace would settle on me. The library calmed me, sheltered me, and educated me. I felt, in a word, WELCOME.

Libraries have always evoked a sense of belonging. That they belonged to you and you somehow belonged to them. Before the Internet, I spent hours there, as did my peers. Libraries were a community hub, and even today they reach out to the community in various ways and try to fill the needs of their patrons.

When I lived in Chincoteague, VA, last year, one of the first community events I attended was the dedication of the new wing of the library. My baby girl and I were frequent visitors there, always welcomed warmly into the beautiful children’s room the addition housed. That gorgeous addition, built to echo a lighthouse, was the direct result of years of support and fundraising from the local island community.

So for me, books and community have always gone together. Independent bookstores, too, have always evoked this feeling in me. I think that what makes most indies comfortable to me is their size, which is usually on the smaller end of the retail scale. They are eminently browseable, and permeated with the love of books. And so many of them are active supporters of their local communities, as well as hosting book-related groups and author appearances within their walls.

Even though I am a book-lover from way back, when I first heard about the Collingswood Book Festival from author friends Keith Strunk and Marie Lamba, I had my doubts about going. What could a sprawling 6-block bookfest offer to someone like me – shy, easily overwhelmed in crowds, and toting a toddler? Wouldn’t it just feel like a huge garage sale? But I decided to go to support my friends and their fellow Liars Club members Merry Jones, Gregory Frost, Kelly Simmons, Solomon Jones, and Keith DeCandido.

I loved it.

It was book overload, but in a great way. I could have spent the entire day there, browsing, listening to panels, and just enjoying the community. Did I say community? Yes, I did. The Collingswood Book Festival was a community affair through and through, with kid-oriented LoompaLand as well as music and the usual fest-type foods. Unfortunately, I could only stay a short time because of my toddler, but I will be back next year, hopefully toddler-free, to browse the day away. For another view of the Book Festival (with pictures!), visit my friend J. Thomas Ross’ blog.

Books can transport you to faraway places—and they can bring local communities closer together.

Books are magic.

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