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The Unbound Book Festival comes to downtown Columbia each spring. They aim "to bring nationally and internationally recognized authors of world-class renown to Columbia, Missouri, to talk about their books, their work, and their lives."

Laura Sims on How Can I Help You: "I do want to champion libraries and librarians wherever I can."

Unbound Book Festival

The Unbound Book Festival is happening in Columbia this weekend and KBIA has been speaking with some of this year’s featured authors.

Laura Sims is the author of the 2019 novel Looker and the 2023 novel How Can I Help You, which is set in a library. She spoke about libraries and their crucial role in society.

Sims recently sat down with KBIA’s Kate Ramseyer.

Kate Ramseyer: Why did you end up wanting to join the libraries panel at Unbound?

"We've become the people who help people left behind by the digital revolution."
Laura Sims

Laura Sims: I really believe in libraries, but obviously, there have been all of these challenges lately, and libraries and librarians have had a very tough time dealing with people trying to ban books from the library.

So, I do want to champion libraries and librarians wherever I can.

I do think it's good to have visibility, you know, library visibility everywhere, and to emphasize all of the things that libraries do – like providing safe space and shelter for people.

We are not just book warehouses. I think that was the common conception, for many years, and now the library has really changed.

And so, I did want to capture that, as well. Like how we've become the people who help people left behind by the digital revolution.

That's what I've spent a lot of my time doing as a reference librarian is just helping people, mostly elderly people, or people without a lot of resources, you know, use the computers, answer an email – things that most of us take for granted.

But a lot of people don't know how to attach something to an email, and libraries fill in a lot of gaps that are left in society, and they are absolutely necessary.

Unbound Book Festival

So, I think that was one of the reasons I wanted to do this great panel.

Ramseyer: I noted that your character Margo finds a lot of comfort in the library, and so, is that related to your experience in the like being a librarian or is that specific to her character?

Sims: I think it's both. It is how I feel about the library – and especially at that time that I was writing the book.

It was – I wrote a lot of it during the pandemic. It was this place where I could go and just I don't know feel safe and feel connected to people, and I think a lot of it ended up coming out in Margo.

Ramseyer: What made you want to set your mystery thriller in a library?

Sims: I was really struck by what a rich environment it is, and how much of the whole spectrum of human life and behavior you see every day at the library.

It just became this perfect place to set a novel.

Ramseyer: I haven’t had a chance to look at Looker that much, and also wondering about your, the book you're in the process of writing. Do either of them have anything to do with libraries per chance? Or was this unique to that?

Sims: No, this one was unique. Yeah, it was. And I wish now that every book I write were set in the library, because you know, then librarians want to read it and celebrate it.

So, that would be kind of fun – to just incorporate a library in some way in every book from now on.

See more Unbound Conversations here and see more including the complete schedule of events on the Unbound Book Festival website.

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