DL Fowler's Blog

Confession: I Went to a Library … I Had No Other Choice

Posted in Lincoln Raw, Lincoln's personality, Lincoln's Psychology, Research by DLFowler on September 11, 2017

Sounds terrible, right? I mean the “had no other choice part.” Don’t judge me so quickly. It gets worse.

Not only do I use my local library as a last resort, my first resort is to see if I can find the book free on Google. (I’m a bad person, I know, but mostly I’m looking for reference books … so, I’m bad and stupid!) If Google fails, I go to Amazon. (I know, Evil Empire and all that.) If Amazon doesn’t have the book, I cross the bridge and drive into downtown Tacoma (the nearest bookstore) to ask them to place a special order. When that doesn’t work, I stew. Maybe for weeks.

Until I remember I have a library card.


No, 3 library cards, even. On top of having those library cards, I have a log in for the internet portals for all of them. I also know it doesn’t matter if none of the 3 libraries have the book I’m looking for on their shelves. They can get it through INTERLIBRARY LOAN. I can even track online to know when the book arrives.

One of those libraries … I drive past every week. Another is fewer than 5 miles away, conveniently located a couple blocks from my favorite grocery. No bridge tolls on the way to either of those two libraries. (Now you see how bad my stupid is. Libraries aren’t just more economical to use, they’re also much more convenient and they probably have access to books that Amazon can’t sell -– that’s almost like having more money than God.)

Now, about the book: They Knew Lincoln by John E. Washington. Copyright 1942. Introduction by Carl Sandburg. The book records vivid personal narratives of contraband slaves in addition to White House servants, waiters, barbers, and doorkeepers, as well as children, who had direct personal contact with President Abraham Lincoln and his family. The book is one of the richest resources I’ve encountered while exploring Lincoln’s humanity and his views on race.

Now, I’d love you to share your experiences about libraries, independent bookstores, or other research sources you’ve found useful. If you have something to share, please leave a comment.

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