Ruthie Maslin

Ruthie Maslin, Director Madison County Public Library

Another entry from the "wrapping up construction" files: I have one word for you. Keys.

As we edge closer to finishing the addition to the Richmond location of the Madison County Public Library, I suddenly find myself in possession of an immense number of keys. No exaggeration. The key ring for the elevator alone has 24 keys on it. Granted, there are many duplicates. But still, the sheer volume of keys seems overwhelming.

And then there is the job of making sure they are all labeled and all the appropriate folks have them -- itself a daunting task.

Part of that is because there are so many items that have a key, including and not limited to multiple doors, multiple sets of cabinets, filing and storage containers, copiers, lock boxes, multiple bathroom dispensers (even the changing tables have keys to the supply sections), book drops, thermostat covers and vehicles. Even the key box has a key.

Maybe I am just hyper-aware because I have keys on the brain, but it seems everywhere I look in the new addition, there's a key sticking out of a lock.

So all these keys got me to thinking about keys in literature (I am a librarian, after all).

The notion of a "key" in books kind of falls into one of a few big categories.

There are those books that feature keys as a location (as in the Florida Keys, for example). Then there are those in which the key functions in a more metaphoric sense, like the key to happiness. And then, of course, there are those that feature an actual key -- these are mostly mysteries, as you might imagine. An interesting subset of the latter is those novels that center on a conspiracy theory or ancient legend where the key offers entrée to a long-buried treasure (the "key" is often a code breaker of some sort).

Duma Key, by Stephen King, is set on an actual key off the coast of Florida. I remember reading this when it first came out, and let me tell you, the wet footprints that appear when no one else is supposed to be around will raise the hair on the back of your neck. It's available for check-out in print in both Richmond and Berea.

In Happiness Key, by Emilie Richards, the titular key represents both a metaphoric key to happiness and an actual place named Happiness Key, the setting of the novel. It is there that four strangers find themselves living, and the friendship that builds among them forms the basis of the story. It's available in large type print in Richmond and eBook format for download through Kentucky Libraries Unbound with your MCPL card.

A Key to Treehouse Living, by Elliot Reed, is an interesting example of the second category of key novels. The novel is a sort of glossary-style list composed by the protagonist, William Tyce, a boy without parents who grows up near a river in the rural Midwest. It's available in print for check-out with your MCPL card.

In The Key, by Simon Toyne, one woman holds the key to humanity's very survival in this thriller that takes place high in a secret city high in the Turkish mountains. It's available for checkout in print in Richmond and eAudio through KY Libraries Unbound.

Among novels that feature an actual key is Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, which begins in 1942 in war-torn France. A young boy is locked in a closet by his sister to keep him safe. But she does not return. Fast forward 60 years, and journalist Julia Jarmond stumbles upon these long-hidden secrets as she works on a historical article. You can check this one out in print in Richmond and Berea, eBook through KY Libraries Unbound, and the movie based on the book in DVD format in Berea.

And then there is Nora Roberts' Key Trilogy -- "Three woman. Three keys. Each has 28 days to find her way through a dangerous quest." The titles in this series -- Key of Light, Key of Knowledge, and Key of Valor -- are available for check-out in multiple formats.

Finally, we have "keys" that unlock puzzles and mysteries. The Pharaoh Key, by Preston & Child, is a good example of this. Here, the key enables the long-awaited translation of a centuries-old stone tablet of a previously undiscovered civilization: The Phaistos Disc. It's available in regular print in Richmond and Berea, large type in Richmond, and eBook and eAudio through KY Libraries Unbound.

Another good example is The Jefferson Key, by Steve Berry. In this fast-paced thriller, the protagonists break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a centuries-old document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves. You can check this one out in print in Richmond, audio in Berea, and eBook and eAudio through KY Libraries Unbound.

So, if you visit the library this summer and see me walking like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders, don't worry. It's just the keys. I'll see you here soon!

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