Chris Bohjalian rides his Trek Edmonda on the roads of Vermont every chance he gets. If he stops anywhere along the way, it’s usually at a local library.
If you follow the Lincoln-based author on social media, you’ll likely see photos of Vermont libraries—with Bohjalian’s bike parked out front—in his “Libraries of Vermont, Spotted on My Bike” series.
Bohjalian, who has published 20 novels, including such bestsellers as Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Guest Room, has been an avid cyclist for 20 years. When he’s home in Vermont—and if the weather cooperates—Bohjalian will cycle the scenic byways of the Champlain Valley or the rugged gaps of the Green Mountains. On many rides, he’ll pedal to the nearest library for a visit.
So far, Bohjalian has posted photos of 13 Vermont libraries on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, including images of the Bixby Memorial Free Library in Vergennes, the Jericho Town Library and the New Haven Community Library. He hopes to share photos of as many as 30 libraries and bike a total of 3,300 miles before the cycling season winds down in late fall.
While he’s out riding, Bohjalian doesn’t just quickly snap a photo of a library from the seat of his bike and move on. Instead, he parks his bike and goes inside the library to express his appreciation.
“If the library is open, I go in and tell the librarian they rock and that libraries rock! Libraries are vibrant parts of our society, and they have tons of people using them,” he says. “On any given day, you’ll find children being read to, middle schoolers working on a project or seniors doing yoga.”
Chris Bohjalian and His Favorite Vermont Libraries
Now more than ever, Vermont libraries help create a strong sense of community. In an August 2018 article in The Christian Science Monitor about Vermont libraries, Gareth Henderson writes, “In an era when memberships in social clubs and church attendance are down, and critics say social media appears to be fracturing rather than knitting society together, libraries are stepping in as so-called third places where people can meet and socialize.”
One of Bohjalian’s favorite libraries is The Lincoln Library. He wrote about his hometown library being lost in a flash flood in 1998 and how 80 percent of its collection was destroyed (a new library was built and opened in July 2000). “The Lincoln Library will always have a special place in my life,” he says. “After the flood, I was struck by how bereft we were here without a library.”
As much as he loves libraries, Bohjalian is also known for sharing photos of Vermont bookstores, farms and fields taken along one of his 30 to 50-mile bike rides (his signature hashtag is #whyIlovethe802).
So, what does he love most about the 802? After all, 2018 marks 30 years since Bohjalian moved to Vermont from Brooklyn.
“We are a wonderful microcosm for trends and issues that confront so much of America,” he says. “We are such a funky little state. On one hand, we are this state of microbrews and gourmet cheeses. On the other hand, we are finding ways to celebrate and preserve our topography and agrarian past.”
And, of course, our libraries.
You can follow Chris Bohjalian on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. His website is chrisbohjalian.com.
-Photos by Chris Bohjalian: Chris Bohjalian and his wife, Victoria Blewer; The Cotton Free Library in Weybridge.