Childhood Memories at the Library Shaped My Story

If it weren't for libraries, I don't know if I'd be a writer today.

I had to stand on my tippy toes to place my books on the check-out counter. Our school librarian would see me and immediately pull up my check-out history — I was rarely overdue. A curved smile always appeared on their face as I walked away with a pile of books as big as my eight-year-old body.

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I remember my middle school library being the first reading center that taught me about the complexities of library science. It wasn't anything fancy — just one corner of a vast, giant school building with a selection of chairs situated beside some square-shaped windows.

I didn't need it to be an architectural marvel to discover wonder inside those walls; I found comfort in the after-school programs. I delved into dystopian societies, free tutoring programs, and our school book club. Through my middle school book club, I was introduced to Neil Gaiman's Coraline and local authors, some of whom I got to meet.

In the middle of my 7th-grade year, I was delighted to learn that a public library was being built into our local community center just a few blocks away from my mother's old condo. My grandparents lived in an assisted living apartment just across the street as an added convenience.

Every few days or so, I took the opportunity to visit them. Before making my way towards their tiny apartment, I went to the community center to visit our local public library — a small, magical little corner of my world. My weekly walks to this public library lasted well through my years in high school.

I began to buy books. I commonly walked past the ornately designed stained glass windows above the university library entrance as a college student. It was a beautiful building. This time, it wasn't for the books I checked out. It was for convenience.

Stated briefly, these moments in time barely reflect the impact these particular libraries left on my childhood. In chronological order, they're merely buildings. For my childhood memories, they represent essential milestones — life-changing events that feature all the complexities that come with being human.

My elementary school library was home to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a beautiful children's novel written by the fantastic Kate DiCamillo. Edward went through intense character growth, but it was through his journey that he learned to love. He comforted his owners when they were in despair and forgave them when they were cruel.

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This seemingly simple story about a porcelain rabbit educated me about the power of empathy. I checked it out 12 times. I carried DiCamillo's words as an adult. Someone will come to you. But first, you must open your heart.

Being a child of divorce, it wasn't easy to find consistency in my life. I suppose I found that through libraries. When I felt like the world was against me, there were characters in my favorite books to remind me that I wasn't alone. I don't just remember my old public library because it was part of a childhood routine. I remember it because it was my refuge — a safe space to be myself and self-reflect on my life.

The stories I read in these libraries made me realize I wanted to be a writer. As soon as I was in 4th grade, I knew this, riddling my notebooks with scribbles of ideas and concepts for developing stories. No matter how old I was, the librarians of my childhood never doubted me. In fact, they encouraged me to follow my ambitions, vowing to be first in line when my books became bestsellers. After all, writers and readers have something in common: a love of storytelling.

No matter your child's age, I kindly ask parents never to underestimate the power of libraries. Even if it's for fifteen minutes, show them your local public library. They may not find inspiration within the pages of a book, but they could discover it by checking out a video game, film, or something else entirely.

Libraries encourage artists.

Libraries support underrepresented communities.

Libraries inspire leaders.

Libraries teach children life skills.

Libraries offer a safe space for children who love to read.

If it weren't for libraries, I don't know if I'd be a writer today. I was a child with a book once — that child grew up to become an adult with a degree in creative writing. Your child may not follow that same life story, but your library can help them decide how that story may evolve.