I rarely visit libraries to borrow books, but I often frequent them. I am a “Digital Nomad.” I travel the world, while working remotely. I have no fixed base, no office. In every place I go, the local library becomes my office. While my fellows nomads meet at coffee shops or co-working spaces, I spend entire days and even weekends in the common areas and desks of Public Libraries. In fact, I am writing these lines from one of the local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, in a small district, where I am staying these days, until my next destination.
I have been coming here almost everyday since I arrived, from open to close. After a few days, the staff started getting used to me. Libraries, just like bars or restaurants, also have their “regulars.” When I go there, I am sure that my day of work will be fully productive. But sometimes, like everybody else, I have to take a break.
So I stop staring at my screen for a second and just look around me.
Libraries are small ecosystems. Tiny representations of our vast world, where diverse elements and people, from all shapes and ages, gathered and interact together. I observe. I see a very old man, about eighty years old, in a wheelchair, falling asleep while reading the New Yorker. Next by, another one is concentrated on his crosswords. I can hear kids talking, laughing and playing. A colorful and friendly space, furnished with small chairs and tables, is dedicated to them. Parents and librarians initiate these young readers to the magic of books. Behind the shelves, teenagers are studying in groups, probably trying to finish their homework. Some of them, less diligent, are texting with their smart phones. Sitting in raw, at long tables, people from age twenty to forty approximately, have connected their laptops, typing relentlessly on their keyboards. Are they writing essays for university or updating their resume to apply for jobs? Maybe they are just freelancers, like me, working on their projects. Going back and forth, librarians help visitors to find what they are looking for while others scan the books lent or returned. At the door, a security guard cheers people entering or leaving and make sure the place is safe.
After looking at all of them for a while, I close my eyes to feel the energy generated by so many different minds gathering in the same place.
In Public Libraries, I feel I can connect with the community like anywhere else. There is something special about these places. Each one has its own character, indeed, but they also all have something in common: they are an opened door to knowledge, understanding and diversity. Places where inspiration just flows. Only in such place could I have written this article.