A “Gateway” Experience at the Library

by Ruth G.

The beauty of the public library is that you might pick up something you’d never purchase, something totally outside of your tastes, interests and habitual choices, which ends up opening a whole new, wonderful world to you. I call this a “gateway” book (or CD, audiobook, etc.).  A few examples:

I had a gateway experience at Seattle Public Library in the 1980s when I checked out a LP of jazz musician Erroll Garner. I had never heard of him, and wasn’t a jazz fan. I LOVED that album! This led to Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, and other jazz pianists from before my time.

garner   brubeck     peterson


Another gateway experience was when I read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. Prior to this, I thought of Science Fiction as something dry, strange, and esoteric. Thank goodness I got beyond that misconception! Some wonderful Science Fiction I’ve enjoyed recently includes John Scalzi’s Lock In, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, and The Martian by Andy Weir.

enders-game    lock-in     ready-p-one     martian


I’d never read a graphic novel before my book group chose Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I loved the way that her illustrations brought to life the bewilderment of 10-year-old girls trying to adapt to the mandated veils, after the Islamic Revolution in 1979:


This led to other graphic novel treasures:

persepolis     hyperbole          supermutant     abchinese


For fun, I asked some colleagues to share their “gateway” experiences at the Public Library:

“L”: “I read a LOT of picture books and I adore so many of them, but I am not a parent and I don’t work in children’s services so these are books I would probably never look at if I didn’t use the library. I love that the library keeps me in tune with new picture books, and I’ve come up with many successful gifts for my nieces and nephew as a result!”

mummy-cat     gaston     mother-bruce                                            princess-pony     ida     miss-moon


“S”: “Horse books are a gateway read. Black Beauty started it all. Monday was library night and I headed straight to the horse books-Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley and Mary O’Hara. Loved them all except for The Red Pony-still scarred. Lately, I have been enjoying Molly Gloss.”

black-beauty    misty   black-stallion   flicka   gloss

“K”: “I’d always shied away from reading Romance novels. I’d always been more of a horror girl, and I enjoyed fantasy but would always roll my eyes at the romance. I never understood bodice rippers, I yawned at “chick” books, and mocked and scorned anything with a dark and brooding male character on the cover. But I came across Christine Feehan’s Dark Prince some years before the paranormal romance boom… I devoured more Feehan, and moved on to others in the genre, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nalini Singh, Larissa Ione, and others. I shifted on to the “forbidden” territory of erotic romance (Shayla Black, Sylvia Day, Lora Leigh) and to the afore much-mocked bodice-ripper Historical Romances (Eloisa James, Stephanie Laurens, Elizabeth Boyle, Julia Quinn), and finally to what I swore I’d never read—contemporary romance. I now am an avid romance fan—all thanks to checking out books from the library.”

dark-prince   kenyon  shayla-black   sylvia-day  eloisa-james   laurens


I would love to hear about your gateway experience at the public library in a comment below. Thank you!




2 responses to “A “Gateway” Experience at the Library”

  1. Robert Allen says:

    In July 2009, I checked out a CD from the library (not Sno-Isle, unfortunately) that triggered a huge change in the type of rock music I listen to. Another library system in the area has a good collection of Japanese language music CDs. Having never before listened to Japanese rock, I got PUFFY’s album “Honeycreeper”, put it on and within 30 seconds I was hooked. I was absolutely gobsmacked. A guitar riff swiped from the Beatles’ “Revolution”, an insistently catchy keyboard riff, and two female singers singing in close harmony. It was fun, it rocked, and I’d never heard anything quite like it. There was a palpable joy that permeated the song that’s missing from so much Western rock. This led to me not only tracking down more music by PUFFY (who are called Puffy AmiYumi in the West), but other Japanese acts. Seven years later, 90% of the music I listen to is Japanese – chatmonchy, SCANDAL, nano.RIPE, Stereopony, Kinoko Teikoku, indigo la End, Shiina Ringo, ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION, the brilliant green, tricot, and so many more. There’s so much good music coming out of Japan, and checking out that one CD led to me discovering it.

  2. Ruth G. says:

    I love your story, Robert! I checked out a music CD (from another library system which shall not be named) which introduced me to a K-pop group called “M-Flo” (the album is “Cosmicolor”). I went crazy for that CD and went on to listen to lots more K-pop. (The scary gateway is K-drama though: once you start, you’re hooked!)

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