Tim O'Mara is a New York public schoolteacher, the author of the Raymond Donne mystery series and a library supporter. His new book, Crooked Numbers, continues the adventures of hero Raymond Donne, a Brooklyn public schoolteacher and former cop. In a guest blog post, O'Mara shares some his fondest memories of libraries from around the country.
Guest post by Tim O'Mara
Growing up on Long Island, I lived a five-minute walk from our public library. And my father never let his kids forget it.
Dad wasn’t a book buyer: He was a taxpayer with a library card and the only books I remember him actually owning were a collection of poems by Robert Frost and the Bible. (Both of which he kept by his bedside.) Books were to be borrowed, not purchased. He passed away a few years before I got published and I’d like to think he would have made an exception in the case of my books, but I can’t swear to it.
While promoting my first book, Sacrifice Fly, I have had the pleasure of visiting public libraries all across the country—if the country ended at Columbia, Missouri, that is. To a one, librarians have treated me as visiting royalty. I’ve seen my name on posters, flyers, websites and in local papers. I’ve appeared on local radio and TV shows to promote library events. I’ve received tote bags with library logos, pens and a coffee mug. (“Swag,” I think they call it at the Academy Awards.) I even made the front page of Missouri’s Fulton Sun after a Daniel Boone Public Library-sponsored event. It must have been a slow news day: They got one picture of me reading from the book, and another of me petting Well Read’s store cat. (Gotta get that pet crowd on your side.)
At my reading event in East Meadow—my hometown library—my old mailman showed up. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years, and I recognized him right away. He’s retired now and told me he enjoys a good mystery now and then. (I asked him where the postal clerks go when they disappear to the back. We may collaborate on that one.) I also ran into some old school friends, including a woman from my first grade class who’s now an East Meadow librarian. (She’s a woman now; in first grade she was only 7.)
Out of the blue last year, I was invited by the Newport Rhode Island Public Library to read for them. I figured out the cost of travel and hotel and almost declined the offer. Then I saw that I was part of Newport’s “March is Mystery Month” and that the following week’s reader was Tess Gerritsen. I said yes. If Dr. Gerritsen could find the time with her schedule, who was I—with only a Master’s—to say I was too busy? (I also had the opportunity to visit the Newport Brewing Company with the wonderful Mary Barrett, who’s taste in books is as good as her taste in beer.)
Since Sacrifice Fly came out last year, I’ve had a few friends “confess” that they did not buy the book; they took it out of the library. I find myself reminding them that libraries do buy books and also keep track of how often they’re taken out. The less time the book spends on the shelves, the more bang for the library’s buck and the more likely they are to purchase my next one. I’ve been flattered that many libraries have multiple copies of the book, and I hope they continue the trend and stack the shelves with a few copies of Crooked Numbers, my second book in the Raymond Donne series, published in October 2013 from St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books. (But, if any of my friends are reading this, go ahead and buy the book. Then you can donate it to your public library. We all win.)
Thank you to the public libraries—and their staffs—for introducing me to the wonder of books and for helping me spread the word about my own. Of all my dollars that go into paying taxes, the ones that end up buying books are among the best spent.
My dad taught me that.
Thanks, Tim! Readers, Tim's newest Raymond Donne mystery, Crooked Numbers, comes out today. Go check it out at your local library.