Books are weird. I’ll be one of the first to admit it. Our collective fascination with encapsulating our thoughts into words, printing them on tree slivers, and then sharing, analyzing, gushing, blogging, ranting, or raving about them is, frankly, a bizarre ritual of the human race. And yet.

Perhaps you read Madeliene L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time for the first time and find it to be washed up tripe, so much so that you barely bat an eye when you accidentally splatter a bit of murky, lukewarm decaf in the corner of a page. Perhaps the librarian won’t notice it when you turn it back in (we will.)

And yet, the next patron to borrow the book from the library is utterly enraptured by the novel. Each page is a newly unearthed precious artifact, a treasure to cradle under the halo of light from the reading lamp. Each twist and turn of the plot inspires and drives, so much so that said patron barely registers the decaf stain. He can’t wait to return it and ask for further recommendations. Maybe he’ll download the mp3 audiobook while he’s at it, or the graphic novel version, and get tickets to take his kids to see it in theaters.

Maybe the next patron after him will adore it. Maybe she’ll hate it. Maybe she’ll find it, as I do, to be just "meh." Nevertheless, across a strangely woven bridge through time, they were all unified in the passing of a story.

And yet, indeed. My point is this: we share one world, we share the great unifiers of birth, life, and death. But we cannot ignore a subtler tie that binds us together: we all have stories.

In a time when our divisions are poignantly and violently apparent, and the only thing we may share with our neighbor is a fear of the future, libraries and their hallowed stories are more necessary than ever to bring people together.

So here’s the plug: library cards are free for Okaloosa residents, and we literally have thousands of options between books, movies, audiobooks, and digital formats. Come and borrow a story with a potential coffee stain. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you’ll loathe it.

And yet, you’ll be sharing in something far bigger than any of us can even imagine.

Emily Knie is the Crestview Public Library's adult services librarian.