Within recent memory, West Tisbury, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Chilmark have all added event rooms to their libraries. Now Vineyard Haven hopes to do the same. That’s because these welcoming institutions are no longer places where silence is golden but where education and entertainment are. The public library has become the new community center, a watering hole for the mind and spirit, a place for lectures, music, poetry, film, art and conviviality. Not to mention, air-conditioning.

This is not your father’s library. In fact, this isn’t even the library of my youth.

As a teenager in high school looking for an after-hours job, something that wouldn’t be stressful, I found myself employed at the Denver Public Library, an oasis of calm in an urban landscape. My first post there was in the stacks, down in what seemed like a basement bookstore that covered half a city block.

I sat at an old desk and waited for the thunk of the pneumatic tube carrying the slip of paper with the Dewey Decimal number of someone’s desire. My hope each time was that the order was for a history of Argentina or Australia. This meant the book was in the upper 900s, about half a football field away. This meant fun.

This job called for roller skates, the old kind with as many wheels as a semi. On my way to Argentina or Australia, I could get up momentum, whizz down the concrete floor, grab the end of the bookcase where my quarry was most likely shelved and finish with a balletic spin. Ta-da! Then I would race back to send the requested book up a dumbwaiter.

In the quiet between thunks and whizzes, I recall reading such works as Lord Jim, Lucky Jim and Lolita. You’d think I had been working my way through the L’s, but the fiction section was alphabetized by author. Joseph Conrad, Kingsley Amis and Vladimir Nabokov weren’t exactly in the same section, but they found comfort on a shelf in my brain. Reading formed me.

Actually, my career path was determined by the Dewey Decimal System. What really formed me happened when I was moved up the library ladder to the loft of literature on the main floor. I was now in the 800s division, working with the public — shelving, searching, answering questions. At the same time, Rudy, my best friend from high school, had advanced to the 700s on the second floor, focusing on art and music.

When I look back on this time, I have to marvel at what the library experience did for me. There I was, spending hour after hour filing and browsing through the 800s: poetry, plays, essays, humor and satire. I was making friends with Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot, George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, Mark Twain, James Thurber, H. Allen Smith and Richard Armour — the latter once said of libraries: “Here is where people, one frequently finds, lower their voices and raise their minds.”

I fell head over heels for language during those days and we never broke up. I went on to a 25-year stint in journalism, and since then I’ve written and published poems, plays, essays and humor columns. Could this all be because I took a job in the Denver Public Incubator? In other words, did I have any free will in my career choice after my time working at the Denver Public Library.

Well, let’s take a look at my friend and co-worker from back then, Rudy. As I said, he had been communing with art and music. Eventually he became a librarian. Along the way he has played flute, recorder, harp, piano and clavichord, even building one himself. Now he is a full-time artist with a passion for printmaking and photography and creating marvelous book structures, some even interactive. For more, see his site: rutherfordwitthus.com.

Of course, you can say there was a predisposition at work. But you can also say what we managed to get out of the library appears to be mother’s milk. These were nurturing experiences. And now our libraries are branching out into the all-encompassing nature of community centers. Think of it, if you spend enough time partaking in all that’s offered and submerging yourself in one of these developing pools, you may find a new you coming up for air. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good thing the Denver library staff didn’t place me in the 300s instead (the legal section). Today I might be suing you.

Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.