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Library Love Stories: Pat Sartor Found A 'Friendship Sanctuary' Among The Stacks

For Pat Sartor, the public library is a place of 'belonging'.
Julia Reihs
For Pat Sartor, the public library is a place of 'belonging'.

Earlier this year, KUT partnered with Austin's Library Foundation to gather your stories about what the public library means to you. We selected a few of the writers to come record their essays at KUT.

Today, we hear from Austinite Pat Sartor.

Entering the library reminds me of all the times I threw my toddler over my shoulder, plopped her down at the storytime carpet where, together, we’d watch the Strega Nona puppet shows.

Nowadays, I arrive for Saturday writing group and experience an immediate sigh of relief at the sight of all the writers leaning over their journals, pens moving quickly, filling pages up with real written words.

I found the ad in the Austin Chronicle 22 years ago. It read “Writing group, meets third Saturday Hancock Library, Call Mindy.”

Mindy welcomed me in saying, “Come and write with us. We all bring writing prompts, write for 10 minutes then read voluntarily in rounds.” I hung up the phone and felt like I was levitating. I had longed to write and now I was going to ... with real writers.

Over the years, I’ve listened to the stories of their lives, their feelings, their experience. I treasure the moments at the library table. Writing, reading and listening. I’ve hoped out loud with my fellow writers. We write about our deep heart space, our discontent, our traps. I hear my own writing and how it’s grown in depth — how much further down the well I travel.

My daughter, now 17, reached in my wallet to get money and said, “really, mother, you have the librarian manager’s business card in your wallet?” “Hey, everybody should have their librarian‘s business card in their wallet. Marcus is an important person. He scheduled every third Saturday for the whole year for me on the library classrooms schedule. He is a treasure.”

That library is a place of belonging. I’ve come to use it as an annex to our house. I’ll run over after dinner before it closes and pick up my InterLibrary Loan book. Or on my lunch hour I’ll sit and stay put for awhile, out of the fray from my frenetic workplace.

Sitting in the stacks, thumbing through the pages of artbooks, cookbooks, children’s books, watercolour, tile making, writing — Lord, a thousand books on how to write.

One year, enduring an office reorganization, I was shipped to another office location — which separated me from my soul sister Mary Emma Stewart. We shared a cube wall and our library books. We’d drop them off at each other’s desk with a posted note indicating the page to read like some kind of subversive spirit-lifting committee.

What the hell was I going to do to cope at work without her?

Meet at the library, that’s what.

There she was every Tuesday night after work. We would read to each other from the book, “Untethered Soul,” highlighting, notating, discussing the meaning of each chapter. Finally at closing time, we’d walk to the parking lot, Marcus the librarian locking the door behind us and waving goodbye.

It’s really a friendship sanctuary disguised as a library.

In Austin’s changing landscape, there is a constant. The library.

Without the library some of us would be lost.

Matt Largey is the Projects Editor at KUT. That means doing a little bit of everything: editing reporters, producing podcasts, reporting, training, producing live events and always being on the lookout for things that make his ears perk up. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mattlargey.
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