In honor of National Library Week (it starts today!), here’s a story from one of our contributors about how her local library got her through some pretty challenging times.
When I was in 4th grade, my dad lost his job, providing my family with an exercise in gratefulness. We had to cut back on everything: on the electricity we used, the school supplies we bought, and, basically, on anything with a dollar sign attached. At times, we were unable to afford basic groceries. Knowing that we had to learn to adapt, we were able to manage, to rely on each other for support.
Although, there was one cutback that I was not prepared for when my parents started openly discussing our lack of funds. I was not prepared to stop buying books.
I couldn’t imagine a life where reading did not exist, where I was prevented from admiring book covers and exploring new worlds. When my mom told me that we could no longer make trips to the bookstore, it was the first time that I internalized the seriousness of our situation. I could go without eating a full meal and without new notebooks for school, but ceasing my reading activities was unimaginable.
With all of these changes swirling around my adolescent body, my town’s library served as a safe haven. There, I could walk between bookshelves and explore. I could escape the problems that were a dark cloud above my head. Opening a new book was an escape, an escape that kept me sane during this uncertain time in my family’s history.
If it weren’t for my library, I would have been lost. I would have forgotten about the beauty of the world, about the simple pleasures that make life worth living. Physically, I was sitting on the library’s floor, staring at a black-and-white page. Mentally and emotionally, I was finding salvation.
Years later, I spent two summers volunteering at this same library. I worked there twice a week, for several hours, assisting the children’s librarian. This experience proved that this library was not only a safe place for me, it was a safe place for many others. For people of all ages and from all walks of life.
In the morning, a group of children would gather on the second floor to hear the librarian read a story. She would show them pictures and let them have their voices be heard. They would smile and talk and laugh and make new friends. An hour later was craft time, where more kids arrived to participate in a craft that I’d prepared for them. There were events, activities, decorations, and scavenger hunts being lovingly created for the children on a daily basis. Never in my life had I seen so many smiles (and the kindhearted efforts behind them).
Occasionally, I’d venture down to the adult section of the library. There, I’d see people reading on comfortable chairs or utilizing the free computers. Occasionally, I’d witness a tutoring session, hearing a student say, “Oh, yes! I get it now!” Nobody ever seemed unhappy to be there, to be among a sea of books and resources.
It’s been ten years since I started taking advantage of my library card. Not only have I saved money, I’ve also had the opportunity to have the entire world of literature in the palm of my hand (not to mention free DVDs and CDs).
When I walk through the doors of any library and am greeted by a librarian, it’s almost as if I am opening the doors to the entire universe, to places both real and imaginary. In a library, I am in a place where it doesn’t matter who I am or how much money I have in my pocket. What matters is that I’m in a safe place and I’m on a journey to discover more.
And that’s why I believe every week to be National Library Week. *throws confetti in the air*