Author says librarians put him on track to write


Published: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 12:55 a.m.
Michael Connelly says he doesn't know where he would have ended up if it hadn't been for a librarian who made him read when he was 12 years old.
The UF alumnus and author of the best-selling Harry Bosch detective series spoke to an audience of about 230 students, faculty, staff, donors and other guests at the dedication of the University of Florida's newly expanded Library West on Friday, saying that libraries gave him the inspiration to be the author he is today.
In the sweltering Fort Lauderdale summer almost 40 years ago, Connelly said he and his brothers were slowly trudging across a baseball diamond when his youngest brother pointed to the local branch library, which sported a sign saying "Now Air-Conditioned."
"If you wanted to come in and use the air conditioning, you had to use the library as well," he said.
What happened next changed his life forever, he said. A librarian escorted him through the shelves and picked out the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" for him to read.
"It helped instill in me a lifelong interest in reading, but also a lifelong interest in stories about justice, about standing up for what you believe in," he said. "Now, I make my living telling stories, and I hope they contain some of those things."
Connelly's inspiration from libraries didn't stop at childhood, he said.
As a journalism major at UF, he absorbed the work of authors like Hunter S. Thompson, whom he strove to emulate.
"Thirty years ago, if you were looking for me, you would have found me here among the stacks," he said.
At the former Library West in the winter of 1977, Connelly said he found the "fuel to put into my gas tank for that long road" to becoming a writer.
After touring the newly renovated library, Connelly said in an interview following the speech, "A student who comes in here would want to be here. It's very inviting. It didn't used to be like that."
UF President Bernie Machen highlighted many of the inviting changes to the library in his address to the crowd. Among them was an increase from 117,000 to 177,000 square feet, the addition of 20 group study rooms and wireless Internet access in every room.
Connelly also paid tribute to the late U.S. Sen. George A. Smathers, whose $30 million gift made the library's renovation possible. He said Smathers' nickname in the halls of Congress was "Gorgeous George," and the new library deserved to bear the nickname as well.
Connelly said the library would forever hold an important place in students' lives.
"We'll never be able to quantify the inspiration this place will give," he said, "but, rest assured, it is immense."

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