The library in town has three floors with a wide, spiral staircase in the center. The effect is a little like looking at the inside of conch shell.
I’ve spent years on the main floor of that building with the rows of fiction, and on the second floor with the non-fiction, but that third floor…whoa! That was spooky. I never saw people make the circuit on those stairs from the first floor all the way to the third. What was up there? Obviously books. I could see that through some glass walls. But what kind of books? For some reason, I figured I didn’t belong up there. That floor must be reserved for the “elites,” with whatever it contained being under lock and key.
One day, I screwed up my courage. I placed my foot on the first step, then the second. I waited to see if a guard would stop me from advancing. When no one did, I took a few more steps. And more. Pretty soon, I stood at the top and faced two closed doors. Now what? I took a deep breath, pushed the doors open, and entered the sanctum as though I belonged. Oh my, what I found there!
(Okay, if I were writing a novel, this is where the first chapter would end and you would be screaming, “What? What did you find?” But since I’m not writing a novel, I’ll go ahead and tell you.)
I found old gold. Truly! I found a wealth of information for historical novels. Geneological records, tax records, Civil War records, marriage records, etc., etc. Much of it dealt with my state’s history, of course, but there was similar information for all fifty states.
Every time I go in there, I find nuggets of value—more I want to explore—information from the 1600’s through today. One day, I went through the recorded marriages for a county in Texas in the mid-1800’s. I wrote down unusual first names that I found interesting. Now, I have a whole list of names to pick from for characters in future books. And they’ll all be historically correct.
I spent yesterday afternoon searching Civil War correspondence, making sure I could place the characters in my current WIP in the same locale at the same time. The History Room is not only great for research, but for ideas. Who knows what nugget of information I’ll find that will be polished into a gem of a future story?
Even if you’re not a writer or a geneologist, you could benefit from a visit to your library’s High Place. Take a couple of hours to mine a little information about your ancestor’s culture.
What Say You?
Have you ever been to the History Room of your local library? What did you find of interest?