Before I start writing my final papers of the semester, I wanted share a bit about my love for libraries, being that it is the last day of #NationalLibraryWeek. I grew up in Anaheim, CA. My house was less than three blocks away from the central public library. Almost every day I’d walk from my house to the library with my grandmother. As a youngster my love for libraries began with story time and the kids play area. By 2-3rd grade it was reading books, not having many at home, the library provided thousands of books different themes like dinosaurs, volcanoes, and the Roman Empire. I mention a book on the Roman Empire, as it was the first book I can trace to my love for history and reason why I majored in the subject. By 4th grade I remember entering book contests to win double-double certificates. I read hundreds of books, and ate hundreds of cheeseburgers. In retrospect, the voracious reading may have propelled my love for learning and focus on education, but the cheeseburgers propelled something else. Growing up the library was always an affirming place for me as someone who loved to read, learn, and focus on academic-related activities.
In between my walk from home and the library there was a UU church, police department/jail, and a row of bail bonds offices. As a kid I never thought much about the juxtaposition of my educational sites and with a place of incarceration. I can remember playing soccer on the fields of Benjamin Franklin Elementary and some days seeing the buses of inmates leave the jail. It was commonplace for a teacher to say “if you stay here, you won’t go there” pointing at the jail from the school blacktop. The message I learned early on was that if I focused on education, I wouldn’t go to prison. I figured, if I stayed in the library all day, I couldn’t get into trouble. I may further explore those messages between education/incarceration, but this post is about libraries.
The public library is a place for everyone and anyone. A community space with books, resources, and people that want to help. What I truly love is the “bustle” of a library. On any given day, a child could be reading their first words… a newly migrated person could be learning English with ESL programs available…an underresourced student who lacks a computer, internet, or printer can be on equal terms with anyone else…another person could be taking advantage of a resume and job workshop to find employment… or a grandson can be assisting his grandmother with her citizenship test in the midst of all the great books on America’s history and its political structure.
The library is a critical space for communities; a space that provides opportunity and hope for all. As #NationalLibraryWeek comes to a close, I’m thankful for having such a powerful space nearby, and for a grandmother that instilled a love of learn by taking me to the library.