Saturday, February 27, 2016

Louisiana Saves the Library by Emily Beck Cogburn

We all have memories of visiting libraries as children; for some it was a weekly visit, for others, like me, a rare occasion--and mostly the school library and not the public library.  Libraries are so much a part of our landscape that sometimes we don't even pay attention to them anymore, and that's a shame.  This sweet and entertaining novel reminds us to use our libraries, support them, and recognize them as the heart of our communities.

The novel's main character, Louisiana (Louise for short), is a professor of library sciences at Louisana A&M, a single mom of two small children, and overwhelmed by life.  Her university is cutting the budget, and that means Louise and her friend Sylvia are going to lose their jobs.  Frustrated by a lack of jobs, both end up working for a small public library in Alligator Bayou Parish.  It is a sad library; Mr. Foley, the library director sits in his office all day, grumps around, and refuses to move the library into the 21st century.  Louise and Sylvia roll up their sleeves, and with the help of the other librarians, begin implementing new programs, ordering movies and audio books, and even starting a Zumba class.  Their choices are very popular and the library goes from a forgotten bit of town to a popular, well attended place.  Mr. Foley, furious at this disregard for his wishes, works with the horrible Mrs. Gunderson to shut the library down for good. Some people hate the library and all it represents. 

Louise is the champion for this library.  It's not where she wanted to be--after all, she was a professor at a university, and always thought that's where she would continue her career.  Cataloging books at a small public library was not her dream, but she needs a job, and finds that she actually loves working at the library.  Her ex-husband has done a number on Louise's self-confidence, and quite frankly this library saves her--and she saves the library.  Sal, a local farmer, is smitten with Louise from the start, and gives her even more reason to make Alligator Bayou Parish her home.  As opposition to the library grows, Louise shifts from overwhelmed Mom to a fighter with moxie.  

Such a fun book to read.  Yes, I am a librarian (I've come late to the profession!).  I completely get the need for libraries to stay current, keep growing, and stay established as a community center.  My library is a bit different, but it is important in the community where I work:  a hospital.  I face the same challenges:  keeping up to date on materials, creating programs, keeping a budget, having that elevator speech at the ready to defend having a library.  Librarians take that library with them wherever they go, and defend it fiercely.  I loved how the characters in this novel took action and kept moving through challenges and resistance to the library.  In doing all of that, Louise not only became part of the community, but saved the library.  The flavor of the South is embedded in this novel as well:  sweltering heat, good home cooking, small town networking, and "Yes, Ma'am".  

Rating:  7/10 for a well-built cast of characters, a library that morphs into a powerhouse, and enough real-life to make it all believable.  

Available in paperback and e-book.  


  1. Sounds great! Hurray for libraries. I use mine every week and only buy books when I can't get them there for some reason. I had not realized you were a librarian. Good for you!

    1. I've only been a librarian for a few months; previously I was a bookseller for 25 years! I feel the same way about bookstores that I feel about libraries. We can't afford to lose either of them.