Your Library Diary

The library.

The name alone strikes reverberating cords of innocence and joy, craning our necks to read titles, flipping through pages of a well worn and read volume, turning to the inside of the front cover to see who last checked it out, and the thrill of checking out and walking away with that special book in our hands.

Or, for some, the library carries with it echoes of harmless dissonance, from shh’s out of nowhere, glares from the librarian behind the counter, staring down on our younger selves over the wire rims of disapproving spectacles.

Whatever your memories of your library are, they are elemental, almost primal. They are specific. Reading this, your memories may be felt to the tips of your brains to the bottoms of your hearts. They have a wonderful permanence, a part of our DNA.

The Third Place

Libraries also sometimes serve as our “third place.” The idea of the third place, after home (first place) and work (second place), refers to that place in our lives that we visit voluntarily, to escape, to read, to hang out with colleagues or friends, or just be. They can be our favorite coffee shop, bar, or cafe; a club, church, or a gym; a park, a riverfront, a front stoop, a bookstore, or, the library.

Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg (who died in 2022), in his 1989 book The Great Good Place, posits that third places – “where people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation – are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the grassroots of democracy.” In a post-pandemic world where many seem to engage with the world through their phones, Oldenburg’s third place feels almost utopian.

But despite our reliance on mobile devices, third places faithfully persist, evident by groups that meet at Crosstown Concourse, by individuals perusing the shelves at Burke’s Books or Novel, and by the bikers, walkers, and joggers at Overton Park or Shelby Farms.

And for some, the library. In Memphis, libraries are places to meet, to hold or attend free programs, to read, or to seek refuge.

Rich History

In Memphis we are lucky to have not only have a superb, nationally-renowned library system, but a rich history that goes with it: the North, Levi, or Raleigh; the old Highland or the old Main branch on Peabody and McLean; the Poplar-White Station (now the Officer Geoffrey Redd Library); the new Central Benjamin L. Hooks or the old and original Cossitt on Front Street. Whichever branch happened to be your neighborhood library, they hold equally rich, fond, and everlasting memories.

And now, new memories are being made at the new Orange Mound branch, which beautifully occupies the restored and renovated ground floor space of the old Melrose High School (photos below).

For the next few months and through the end of the summer, we are inviting you to share your personal memories, your Library Diary, for a special project that is taking shape. We invite to share a memory, an antidote, a moment, or the librarians and helpers that shaped your library experience and that holds a special place in your own “cerebral filing system.”

Share your memories or moments using the “Leave a Reply” comments section at the end of this article, or email us at

Record Your Memories Below, or email us at

One Reply to “Your Library Diary”

  1. I began a lifetime of reading pleasure at the old Highland Library when I decided to read The Three Musketeers after seeing the 1948 film with Gene Kelly. Until then I had trouble visualizing things in books because I was pretty much ignorant of everything. The film helped me “see” the characters in the book, although it varied from the film in a number of ways. Without libraries there is simply no civilization.

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