The jangled soul can flee

My favorite local library. The reading garden hints of the delights found indoors.
Poquoson, Virginia, June 2014

‘Tis fitting in these days of noise,
Here in these thunder years of steam,
The soul should keep its equipoise
And think its thoughts and dream its dream.
We scar the placid vales with mills,
We scoop the seas and shear the hills:
‘Tis well that to these temples of the mind
The jangled soul can flee and leave the noise behind. 

Sam Walter Foss, librarian and poet
(Lines from the 1904 dedication of the Carnegie Library in Melrose, Massachusetts)

When was the last time you visited your public library? It’s a great place to defeat despair. To adapt a phrase from Dante, every library should have a sign posted above the door that says “Rediscover hope all ye who enter here.” The best public libraries are places of sheer delight, and even the worst have something to offer.

Reading the quote above, it’s interesting to think that 1904 was described as an era of noise and jangled souls. This was before television, traffic and technology became ubiquitous. Some things, apparently, never change, including the soul’s need for a place of respite from the chaotic demands of daily life.

As a librarian I’m more than a little biased, so it’s not unusual that the library would be one of my favorite places to take refuge from confusion and despair. Just walking through the door lifts my spirits. I’m sure to find books, videos and audiobooks to entertain me, as well as practical help for everyday problems. Whether I need to repair a light switch, nurse a plant back to health, or give myself a pep talk, I know I can find the information I need at the library.

Of course, most of us go to the internet with such questions, and that’s a great convenience for which I’m thankful on a daily basis. But there is something about wandering the stacks of a library that offers a different sort of solution. If you haven’t done that lately, give it a try. What begins as a nice relaxing browse can lead to the opening of all kinds of mental doors, and a sense of freedom and possibility that clicking on hyperlinks can’t capture.

If your soul feels jangled, flee the noise and spend a few moments– or hours– at a nearby library. It won’t cost you a cent, and you’ll leave with something money can’t buy.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    “Pleasant Libraries of America, part 7 ….”
    What an attractive and enticing setting that is!
    Yes, we often go to the Internet, but here’s a bonus in going to the library:
    NO ADS!

    • Susan, GREAT POINT– I had not even thought about that! One more reason to love the library!

  2. I love my library! The first thing I used to do when traveling all over the US is find the local library. There I find solace. Thank you for reminding me of how much I love the libraries! Even the different library cards are neat. Love to you and Matt! Love and Light! Cherie

    • Cherie, I am the same way– the library is one of the first places I like to visit when I am traveling. You can learn so much about a community just by visiting the library. And I have quite a collection of library cards from many of the places we have lived. I never throw them away. Many of them are attractive and all bring back very happy memories. I have thought about starting a blog that is nothing but profiles of all the various libraries all over the world. What fun that would be! Thanks for being here with us and sending your love and light. You and Ron stay in our prayers.

  3. Sheila

    Julia, I’ve been missing in action, with the emphasis on action! We spent most of last week at Willow Tree, but going back to 428 as needed several times. This weekend we were able to go to Camp Geiger in NC for Hewitt’s graduation today from infantry training. It’s been whirlwind, but tonight we are back in the tin condo. 🏕 I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day. I thought of you so many times, hoping you could feel the love crossing the miles! 🌹 I’ll write more, just a bit weary tonight. It’s so emotional! 🇺🇸

    • Thank you Sheila. Congratulations on Hewitt’s graduation! You have definitely been on the go in recent weeks. I’m doing OK. Susan (a blog reader here) is visiting and we had a lovely day at Colonial Williamsburg yesterday, visiting with Thomas Jefferson (who will probably show up in a blog post someday soon). We’ll be out exploring again today. It’s rainy in Virginia this week, but the plants are loving it! Hope you have been able to rest up a bit. I notice that I get tired much more easily these days. A perfect excuse to indulge my natural tendency to be a goof-off, hee-hee. 😀

  4. Mickey Champagne

    My favorite place as a child was our local library with its creaky wooden floors and wonderful smell of books. Thanks to my mom, I learned to love to read. There is nothing quite like holding a book in your hand and the anticipation.

    • Mickey, you are lucky to have a Mom who took you to the library. So important, and increasingly neglected in our generation. I love your description of the creaky wooden floor and book smell. Sounds like an ideal place. I do agree that, for at least some of us, the joy of holding an actual non-digital book will never go out of style. Thanks for being here and sharing the love of libraries!

  5. Amy

    If you haven’t found it already I am sure you will soon discover one of my favorite libraries in PWC. It’s a small library tucked away off of Independent Hill. It’s at the top of Joplin road so a perfect place to head down to Prince William Park. There is a lovely walking path all the way around it. It’s tiny with nothing remarkable about it. It’s quiet and the ladies who work there are always very helpful with ideas or suggestions. They can put a book on reserve for you or tell you where the nearest large library is that has a copy if you don’t want to wait for it to come to them. They have two computers and can help you out if you have a tech need. There are often classes held there and they have two super clean bathrooms. The chilrens section is large and has lots on offer. It’s a little gem.

    • Amy, thanks for telling me about that library. I will look forward to exploring it in person. I have always enjoyed PWC and I hope to have lots of time to discover it. The master plan for Potomac Shores calls for a branch library of the PWC system to be built there. If so, it will be the first time I’ve ever lived within walking distance from a library. Even at Vandenberg I was never that close to one. I hope it does eventually get built but I’m sure the train station will come first, and it’s not scheduled to open until 2020. But probably the time will fly as it always does.

  6. Lydia

    Julia, I love to go to the library. Growing up we didn’t have anything like a library in our small town in Mexico. We have 4 sites in our town in Georgia. I started taking my 3-year old granddaughter when she was a few months old. Each one has a story time on different days so we take advantage of this opportunity and go to all of them. They have so many good things and so many good teachers! It is a blessing to have such wonderful places where we learn, we play, we meet other mothers and grandmothers. My granddaughter has a group of friends there. What a blessing it is to be part of a community who considers the library is a good investment in the future of our children.

    • Lydia, I’m so happy you have so many libraries AND the very good practice of helping your granddaughter enjoy them! Some of my happiest memories are of “my” library kids and the fun we used to have together. Yes, libraries are definitely a wise investment. I think those of us who grew up with them tend to take them for granted. Perhaps your being without a hometown library has helped you to appreciate them more. I can tell you for sure that the librarian appreciates your participation as well. Knowledge, like so many other things, is “far better caught than taught” and one of the greatest assets to any school or library is the presence of adults who model enthusiasm for learning. Kids are far better at doing what they see us do, than doing what we TELL them to do.

      • Ann

        Julia, I haven’t tended your business for awhile so I feel compelled to suggest that you volunteer at a library or elementary school to read to the children. It would get you out of the house (!) and out of yourself and bring joy to others. 😊

        • Thank you, Ann! That’s an excellent idea, and one that I have tucked away to re-visit when my life becomes a bit less hectic. Between selling one home, building another, and maintaining (at least for the time being) a third, I hardly have time to think straight. But maybe someday soon…

  7. MaryAnn Clontz

    What a thoughtful quote! I visit the library often. I like the quiet, the atmosphere, the genteel setting. When I was in high school, as I would walk home, more times than not, I’d stop at the library. It was a marvelous, old building continuing the treasure trove of books! My choice at that time was Clara Barton books. Thank you once again, for great reminders to always look for precious things to cherish in our world!
    Much love to you & “my” Matt!

    • Mary Ann, I’m so happy to hear from you. Matt and I are keeping you in our prayers and hoping you are doing well or at least OK. Yes, it’s very hard to walk (or even drive) past a library without stopping for at least a few minutes– which often turns into much more! I too loved to read biographies of great people when I was young. In fact, the historical figures who most appeal to me now are those I read about when I was a child. These things stick with us. Libraries are one more of the countless things in which we are truly kindred spirits! We love you and so appreciate your continual encouragement and presence in our lives!

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        WOW! Julia: I just reread that post you highlighted for me! What a lovely, loving walk though precious memories!!! Thank you! I am feeling well, just often tired. Speaking of memories, my son, Lance, orchestrated a camping trip with much of the family, including my brother & sister-in-law. This past weekend was filled with joy & laughter. Our oldest grandson, Aaron, had lots of queries about my dad. Asking about how long Daddy was the Chief of Police in Suisun City, CA. That sparked plenty of sharing memories & thoughts. Priceless! It feels like it will: “to be continued.” Our youngest grandson & I spent most of time IN the lake at Camp Far West! Lance & Aaron were on jet skis multiple times.
        It makes me feel the love of our Lord thinking of you & Matt, because we do love one another so well! I love you!

        • MaryAnn Clontz

          It makes ME feel the love………….

          • Mary Ann, I fixed it, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t even notice the omission until you pointed it out. I knew what you meant. 🙂 ❤ Thanks for being here!!

        • Mary Ann, thanks so much. Those memories are more precious to me now than ever. I’m so happy you had the fun times with your family. I had forgotten about your Daddy being Police Chief. You must have felt like a celebrity when you were a kid! Although the pressure would be on!! 😀 I’ve been cleaning out and going through a lot of Jeff’s things in preparation for an upcoming move. It’s an emotional and often painful task. Today I was going through our books and I found one that belonged to Jeff that seems to have your name engraved on the cover – “give this to Mary Ann.” When you see it, you will immediately understand why I simply had to send it to you. I know Jeff would want you to have it too. I’ll send it book rate so I’m not sure how long it will take to get there. Love you!!

          • MaryAnn Clontz

            What a precious gift to wait for in high joy & expectation! I want to actually talk to you about the move & family. Sending much love!

            • Mary Ann, the post office says the package should be delivered today. Hope you enjoy it! ❤ I'll try to contact you to set up a phone time soon.

              • MaryAnn Clontz

                Arrived today! I just opened packaging & read the inscription to Jeff; then book almost jumped open to a magnificent ocean WAVE! Can hardly wait to see what else of God’s Glory is contained within this lovely gift! Thank you for your loving heart to entrust this treasure to me! I love you!
                Looking forward to our conversation & “tea” time!

                • Mary Ann, glad it arrived safely. I hope you will enjoy it! We love you! ❤ ❤ ❤

  8. Harry Sims

    Where would I rather be?
    In the library or in wisdom’s bosom?

    • Harry, good point. Libraries don’t always equal wisdom, but if one is seeking wisdom, better a good library than many other places people spend time. There definitely seems to be a correlation.

  9. I was at our local library several times over the last month or two but it looks nothing like the one in the photo. It’s catty corner to the senior center and I went in to check out audio books for listening to while my embroidery machine was going. I have to sit there for several hours watching and change threads. It’s very austere in a modern looking way. Everything including how you check out books and bring them back has taken the human connection out of the equation. My little library at home is more peaceful for me but it doesn’t have free audio books. 😦 I do like to go sit and read magazines since I have stopped buying them. The old section of the library was at one time quite cozy. It’s the first thing I do when I move into a new neighborhood is get my library card. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend, Julia.

    • Marlene, same here. That library card is at the top of the “to-do” list whenever I move. It’s nice you have one library as a source for audio books (that’s where I get all of mine) and one for a cozy place to read your magazines. I agree that the machines, useful as they are, tends to take the human touch away. Just remember that a good reference librarian (not the same as a clerk who manages circulation, though both are important) will always welcome your questions, and a good library will always have at least one librarian– a human one, we hope 😀 .

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