When your mother is a librarian, it’s easy to fall in love with libraries. Amy Starke took it one step further and fell in love in a library. One summer during high school, she accompanied her mother to work every day and developed a crush on one of the librarians. “I read all of the books of C.S. Lewis because he once mentioned he liked them,” Starke says. “Alas, he had no interest in me – an awkward kid!”
Starke is a retired journalist and loyal patron of Garden Home Community Library where she is one of the top frequent flyers for interlibrary loans and the staff know her by name. She sat down with WCCLS to talk about her lifelong love of books and libraries. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
WCCLS: So you’ve always been a fan of libraries?
Amy Starke: I grew up in California. I could see the [Disneyland] Matterhorn from the street corner. Back in the day, when we were allowed to ride a bike without a helmet, we would ride to the library every Saturday and check out five books. Five was the limit.
WCCLS: Do you remember the first book you read?
AS: The first book I read was Honey Bunch, it was probably one of my grandma’s books. It was so crumbly and the pages were yellow. It was an old book back in the 60s; the series began in 1923. It was my first big-girl book, first chapter book with no pictures.
WCCLS: You read Fifteen by Beverly Cleary roughly 150 times by age 11. What kept bringing you back to that book?
AS: Fifteen was a comfort book. Everything in my life was in disarray, but you could return to it and it was like a warm blanket.
WCCLS: How do you keep track of all the books you’ve read?
AS: For the past 28 years, I have kept a record of every book I have read. That’s how I know that in 1993, I tackled War and Peace, although it took me all winter to read it. I had one of those books where you could write down the names of the books and then I switched over to the computer, probably in 1995.
WCCLS: Do you have a favorite book?
AS: Moby Dick is my favorite. I had the option to read it in high school and I declined it to read The Scarlet Letter. By the time I read it, it was the perfect time for me. Every time I reread it, I get a different take on it. It’s a life study.
WCCLS: What format do you prefer to read?
AS: I’m a media junkie, I read all my news online. I prefer books in hardcover form.
WCCLS: Do you ever borrow anything from the library besides books?
AS: DVDs of foreign opera. A lot of things are not on streaming services.
WCCLS: You’ve seen libraries evolve over time. Is there anything you miss about the way they used to be?
AS: I like things now a lot better than the way they were because you can look up books online. I don’t go into the library much other than to pick up my holds. It’s wonderful now.
What I really like is that if I have a question, you can just email a reference librarian and they will answer you right away. WCCLS has really good librarians who are on top of their questions. People don’t realize they can just email reference librarians – they know where to find things! That’s what they do and they’re happy to do it.
If you would like to be featured on the blog as our WCCLS bookworm, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us in 300 words or less why you should be our next bookworm. If selected, we will interview you and arrange for a professional photographer to take your picture at your favorite Washington County library.
Patrons of all ages are welcome to send submissions. However, anyone under the age of 18 will require written permission from a parent or guardian in order to be featured. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.
Photos by Thomas Teal.