What the library means to me, by Jenny Campbell

When I was a kid growing up in Arizona, there was absolutely nothing better than a trip to the library – specifically, the Saquaro branch of the Phoenix Public Library –  where I could roam the stacks and pick out anything I wanted.

I was obsessed with picture books with fantastic illustrations, including everything I could get my hands on by Dr. Seuss; The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night by Peter Spier; and a truly beautiful illustrated Aesop’s Fables. Later I hunted the stacks for Jim Kjelgaard novels about wolves and bears, and heroic dogs like Big Red.  The library was where I fell in love with John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony and E.B. White’s Stuart Little.




So, you may notice there was a theme there… animals.  Anything having to do with animals.  As a budding writer, I relished reading the stories from the animals’ points of view; and as a budding cartoonist and illustrator, in my spare time, I would draw pictures of the animal protagonists. My first oil painting was my 7-year-old vision of Black Beauty.  And it was the library that introduced me to it all.  It was a magical place.

Fast-forward many decades, and as a former newspaper reporter and a 30-year professional cartoonist and children’s book illustrator, my love affair with the library hasn’t abated. I still peruse the picture books… checking out my competition and my idols, both.  And, I am an avid listener of books on CD, in addition to always having a mystery on my bedside table.  The wonderful thing about doing the work that I do is that I can listen to books while I’m working, and it’s fantastic.  During the initial sketch phase of a cartooning or illustration job, obviously I have to really concentrate, and think about what I’m doing. 

But once I’ve written the gags for my syndicated cartoon strip, Flo & Friends, or have finished the rough pencils for a project and they’ve been approved by the client, then it’s book time.  I sarcastically call the inking and coloring of my finished art “mindless”, but it’s actually very mindful, because I can pop a good book into my CD drive and lose myself in a story.  Mysteries are my favorite genre when I’m working because I get gripped by the plot, and before you know it, my job is finished, or the book is finished, and it’s on to the next one.  I’ve also always got a book next to my bed, too, although I often work until the wee hours, so getting through those books takes a LOT longer.

Awhile back, I uploaded Overdrive’s Libby app on my laptop and plugged myself into both the Cuyahoga County Public Library system and the Geauga County Public Library system.  But, it just wasn’t the same.  I missed my library visits!  The Bainbridge Branch is my home base, and I get excited when I get an email that an audiobook I’ve been waiting for is in and waiting for me.  A lot of the librarians know me and sometimes it’s a social visit as much as a book-finding mission.

Overall, the library feels like home to me, whether I’m cruising the audiobooks for something new; checking out the humor section for gag ideas; poking through the reference area when I’m compiling new mailing lists; picking out a movie to watch; buying my herbs at the herb sale; or just visiting.  It will always be amazing to me… this fantastic place, filled with stories and knowledge and beautiful artwork and curious people… and it’s FREE.  And they trust you!

Is there anything better?

Jenny Campbell (pictured here during a visit to Moreland Hills Elementary School) is a nationally syndicated cartoonist of Flo & Friends as well as an illustrator of numerous children’s books. In addition to her website, you can find her on Facebook or out doing school visits alongside Sandra Philipson, who she collaborates with on the Max and Annie series. She is currently reading Tana French’s The Trespasser.
Large Print
Audiobook  (Overdrive CD Playaway)