Books in the Time of Coronavirus, by Liz Gray
Librarian Liz Gray reflects on how books shape our homes and ourselves. This post is part of 805 Lit + Art’s “My Home Library” blog series that features writers and artists enjoying their home libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic. 805 is proudly published by the Manatee County Public Library System, and we hope this series will help people show off their home libraries, find comfort in books, and feel a connection to the library during this difficult time.
Welcome to our home library! I grew up in a home filled with books and reading. My mom read many books to my sister and I such as Finn Family Moomintroll and the Little House on the Prairies series. When we were older, our father read history and philosophy to us at dinner, such as Nietzsche and Malcom X. In fact, even as adults, he still reads to us with enthusiasm and discussion of who is reading what is still a hot topic.
We have quite a few books in our home library, I don’t have an exact number, but I would estimate 500+. It’s a family collection, and we all contribute in our own way. As a teen in the 90’s, I was enamored with the DIY spirit of zines and amassed a small collection. My husband worked at a bookstore for a time and we both eagerly added to our collection with his employee discount. We both worked at an art museum and acquired catalogs and books for exhibitions we worked on. After our son was born, we delved into the delightful realm of children’s literature and have consciously worked to cultivate a culture of books and reading in our home. Recently, we have been acquiring books from estate sales and thrift stores and have become fascinated with rare and out of print books.
Over the years I have questioned the necessity of our book collection: they are onerous to move, tedious to dust, and decidedly not minimalist. But during this time of sheltering at home I find them immensely comforting. I can always turn to them when I need a break from the real world and they have provided us with endless hours of connection as a family. I’ve been feeling the satisfaction of reading from our home collection rather than acquiring or borrowing new books. They even factor into our interior design sense, a stack of colorful art books adorns many rooms in our home.
I have to say, I love this project, I love the opportunity to see into community members’ homes during this time when intimate spaces seem so off limits. I feel incredibly lucky to be sheltering in a comfortable and safe space filled with books. I also recognize that our collection is a privilege, especially with the knowledge that so many families don’t have the means to create a print rich environment. Now more than ever books offer a respite from the onslaught of uncertainty and news and I hope that others in my community are finding the solace in them that I am.
Liz Gray is a librarian in the Information Services department at the Central Library. She loves reading, art, yoga, dancing, crafting and cooking.