I think it’s safe to say that we here at The Hub – and all of you, of course – are avid lovers of books and libraries. I remember how my grandmother was my first introduction to the glories of the public library. She would take me to story hour each and every week, sometimes multiple times if the theme was great. She always let me check out whatever I wanted and encouraged me to read voraciously. She never seemed to care if I checked out 25 books, read through them in three days, and begged to go to the library again.
As I got older, I began to develop friendships with the librarians. They knew me well enough to offer reading recommendations and cared enough to check up on my life. The children’s librarian was kind enough to stoke my thirst for knowledge and learning by letting me help with program setup and execution, giving me my first glimpses behind the scenes. I completed volunteer hours and job shadowing there to meet high school requirements. The library was my safe space, a comforting haven. It was in my childhood that I first dreamed of growing up and becoming a librarian.
Even today, the first thing I do after I move to a new city is to scope out the public library and get a library card. And now that I have a library degree myself, I not only understand the magic of a public library, I also grasp the vital role that libraries play in the community. Institutions of knowledge and learning, committed to freedom of thought and expression, stalwarts against censorship, advocates for the public. I’m very passionate about libraries and the importance they play in our society. But sometimes they also just make a darn good setting for a fictional yarn, so today I wanted to bring you some great books for a YA audience that feature a prominent library setting.
Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
Remember the movie Jumper? This is sort of like that, except libraries. While examining a book of world libraries, Gia somehow manages to transport herself and her friends to a library in Paris, France. Immediately they run into trouble and are rescued by Arik, the boy whose disappearance from the Boston Athenaeum Gia was investigating in the first place. Along with his Sentinels, Arik is busy protecting book gateways from creatures that would do harm. Add an exiled wizard, a dash of romance, and a host of beautiful libraries, and Thief of Lies hits several sweet spots. Thief of Lies is the first in a new series, but hopefully the wait time between books won’t be too intolerable.
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
Imagine a world in which the great Alexandria Library not only survived, but thrived. Except things have gone bad, really bad. Sure, the Great Library can use the power of alchemy to deliver history’s greatest works instantly. Sure, the Library has a presence in every major city. But sometimes that isn’t a good thing. Turns out, the Library is controlling the flow of information to the masses. Personal book ownership is forbidden. There is a thriving but dangerous black market for books. In the middle of all this is Jess, sent by his family to enter Library training as a spy. He soon finds out that those who control the Library value information over human lives and will stop at nothing to preserve their vision.
Library Wars by Kiiro Yumi/Hiro Arikawa/Kinami Watabe (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
For manga lovers, this series about books and libraries just might hit the spot. In a near future where the federal government creates a committee to rid society of all media of which they don’t approve, libraries and local governments fight back and create a military force called the Library Defense Force. The series focuses on Iku Kasahara, who has dreamed of joining the force since one of its members intervened to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore. But it isn’t always the romantic, noble job she imagined, from tough drill instructors to major screw-ups that could have real consequences!
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Okay, technically this one is more of a children’s book, but for middle-grade tween readers, this could be a hit! Kyle Keeley loves to play games – video games, board games, word games. His hero is Luigi Lemoncello, world-renowned game creator. So when Luigi Lemoncello returns to his hometown of Alexandriaville to erect a new, technology-forward public library, Kyle is stoked to grab one of 12 spots that will allow him to be one of the first to see (and spend the night in) the new library. But when morning comes, the exit remains locked, and Kyle and friends must compete in a new sort of game to escape the library. This is a super fun, smart book that encourages lifelong learning and a passion for books and libraries!
Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Cynthia’s friend Annie loves the new librarian. He’s young, hot, and wants Annie to be a library monitor. But Cynthia doesn’t understand the new librarian’s appeal. To her, Mr. Gabriel is creepy and gives off an unsettling aura. Her worst fears come true when she learns that Mr. Gabriel is actually a demon. So now she has to deal with all the normal, everyday stresses of school while also trying to stop a demon from sucking the life force out of her fellow students. Part horror, part romance, all libraries, this is the perfect read for someone who wants something a little out of the ordinary.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2003 Alex Awards)
This is an adult book with plenty of crossover appeal. In an alternate version of Great Britain in the 1980s, the world looks pretty surreal. Time travel is real, dodos exist, and literature is taken seriously. Very seriously. Enter Thursday Next, a detective with the Special Ops Literary Division. Her days are filled with cases of forgery, arguments over Shakespeare’s true identity, and the occasional aunt who gets lost in a Wordsworth poem. But when literary characters are kidnapped from their tales, she must take the case to restore honor and great literature to society. Quirky and fun, this series plays with literature like no other. And yes, I promise there’s a fantastic library involved!
–Jancee Wright, currently reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger