On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual false alarm. As one fireman recounted later, “Once that first stack got going, it was Goodbye, Charlie.” The fire was disastrous: It reached 2,000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene, but over thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Susan Orlean is an exceptional writer and her love for the written word and libraries is all over this work.
As she digs into the fire at the LAPL, this becomes a book about libraries and the people who inhabit them. The librarians and all of the ins and outs and backrooms and quirky people who make up the library. What she finds is something that we all have found at one time or another, a second home. A place of community, a place that levels the playing field for those who don’t have the luxury of buying a lot of books or resource material.
I often joke I would love to be locked in a library and after reading Susan’s book, I really want to do that! I associate the library with my childhood, my first library card, the smell, all the adventures I took in those books.
Librarians are really lucky!
I loved this book and I hope you do as well.
Netgalley/ Simon and Schuster October 16, 2018