Dear Alberto Ríos

While I was reading your poem, “Don’t Go Into the Library,” the idea of calling the library a “dangerous place” came to mind. It related back to how much knowledge I had gained as a child when my mother would take me to the library weekly to check out new books. As I stood in front of the rows and rows of books, I kept getting excited to be challenged as I moved up to the next level of reading, which included even more genres. The setting of the poem, which portrays a very remarkable place to me because I love reading books and gathering as much knowledge as I can, was innovative for a poem idea.

The part of this poem that stood out to me was, “If you do you know what will happen. / It’s like a pet store or a bakery— / Every single time you’ll come out of there / Holding something in your arms. / Those novels with their big eyes. / And those no-nonsense, all muscle / Greyhounds and Dobermans, / All non-fiction and business…” This to me showed how many different options there are to pick in a library and how there is almost always a book for everyone so it is almost impossible to walk out of the library without a book. I agree with you when you say that there is no way anyone can leave the library without a good book to read, since the possibilities seem endless. It makes me wonder how each and every book in the library has its own significance with some people enjoy while others don’t. I suppose that is what makes a library unique, it allows every single person to be included in literature in some way.

I would like to ask how you came up with the idea of making a poem about how interesting a library is. Did you enjoy going to the library as a child? Since the invention of the internet, do you think that the usage of a library has diminished? The way you spoke the phrases of your sentences was creative. I hope to have the opportunity to be enlightened by some of your meaningful poetry soon. It would be an honor if you could write back to me.


Grade: Middle school
Edison, New Jersey

Dear Mansi,

Your sense of genuine wonder is fantastic!  I hope it never diminishes in you. 

Your idea about inclusion is a great realization, and something I very much believe myself.  Libraries do indeed include us all in some way—even when they don’t include us.  What I mean by this is that when I don’t see myself in a character or in the ways that I think, then I know there’s work for me to do.  It reminds me that I am a writer for a reason—someone has to fill in those blanks.  I am in the world, so I should be in books about the world—and so should you.

But if I read a book and like it, however, just simply like it—I am included in the best of all worlds.  Because I like it, that book was for me.

I loved going to the library when I was young.  I remember that we had to walk up a long flight of stairs to our old library, and it overlooked the community swimming pool.  I know that so many of my friends wanted to be in the pool instead.  But, for me, as I listened to everyone screaming and yelling and laughing and shouting in the pool, I imagined that it was all really coming from all the books, and that the books were the real swimming pool.

Alberto Ríos

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