English is a complicated language. It’s a miracle I can function in it. In fact, I’ve made my living, my entire adult life, as a writer. In English. My grade school teachers would be amazed, because I was such a poor reader from the very beginning. I could stand up and read you a story, with perfect pronunciation and proper inflection and plenty of emotion, but I scored very, very low on something called “comprehension.” What does that mean, exactly — “comprehension”?
Somehow, I’ve been able to churn out miles of newspaper columns and blog posts, appeal letters for various charities, and even whole books — not to mention about 15 years’ worth of sermons, back in my days as a clergyman — but I never became a very good reader. When the Kindle came out, I thought maybe technology could help me, so I bought one. To be honest, however, if you visit my living room, you’ll find my Kindle on the little table next to my favorite chair, still plugged in from the day I bought it, but serving as a very expensive coaster.
Even so, I am a great fan of the Ipswich Public Library. I have spent many hundreds of hours there. This is a place of enormous value to our beloved town. For one thing, you can use the bathroom without having to order any food. Furthermore, there is a little conference room upstairs which you can use without an appointment, as long as you don’t make too much noise, because there’s no wall or door to keep the sound from traveling down the stairs into the be-quiet-so-people-can-read part of the building. This little room is perfect if you want to meet someone who has the potential to get noisy when they dislike what you’re going to tell them, because senior librarian Laura Hoffman can be counted on to come upstairs and gently shush your unruly friend. Which is ideal for negotiations with your estranged wife, or your contractor who didn’t quite do that one thing.
I have frequently used the Ipswich Public Library as a place to pop open my laptop and get some work done between downtown appointments. (No point in driving all the way back out to Planet Outer Linebrook, where I live, only to hitch up the horses to the wagon again and head back into town an hour later.) Even though I am a poor reader, a slow reader, an unenthusiastic reader, and a reader with poor “comprehension,” whatever that is, I have been unfailingly welcomed with warmth and acceptance by the library staff, time and time again.
I have also become a great fan of the library’s director, Patty DiTullio. She tells me she is more of a “people” person than a “book” person. For which I am grateful. She makes me feel there’s hope for people like me.
(One day her little niece was visiting the library, and Director Patty bravely introduced me to the little girl, without feeling the need to whisper, “Be careful, he’s not much of a reader.” By the way, I believe I actually saw a volume of Nietzsche under the six-year-old’s arm, which made me shudder. I guess DNA runs strong in a librarian’s family.)
It is a particular point of pride for me that Director Patty invited me to participate in the Local Authors Fair at the library last November. Of course she positioned me next to fellow writer Sam Sherman in the “youth” room, even though neither of us has been a “youth” for quite some number of years. It was done, I presume, because Sam and I were expected to be rowdy. I trust we did not disappoint.
Director Patty and the library staff have worked hard to make the library less intimidating to me and other unfortunate folks whose comprehension meters tilt toward “E.” For example, some time ago they put up signs in the library that announced, “Ipswich Reads One Book.” They said Take your time, it’s for a whole year. This is so cute. Even I, of limited comprehension, can tell that they’re just being nice. The whole town of Ipswich can’t possibly take a whole year to read just one book. What would be the point of an entire library, jammed with books, if the whole town only reads one book in a year?
Thanks, Director Patty, for trying to make us comprehension-challenged folks feel welcome, but this goes too far. You’re really, really kind. Thank you. But please. Even without comprehension, I understand what’s going on.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road, 5.3 miles from the Ipswich Public Library, which is terribly far away, and especially hard to find if you can’t read the road signs. To follow him, click the little “Follow” sign.