My first time in a public library was in the fifth grade. I needed to write an essay on Henry Ford, and the library in my school had nothing on the entrepreneur. (This was prior to the internet being your main source of information. It still is not mine when it comes to essays.) So instead, I asked my parents if they could take me to the Elizabeth Public Library—this immense, white, towering building on Broad Street. I had passed the place a million times but never had a reason to venture beyond its glass doors.
I do not remember filling out the necessary paperwork or finding the 80 page illustrated biography of Ford, but I vividly recall my first glimpse of the place—a round white desk overwhelmed the entrance as countless iron shelves were overflowing with multi-colored books and the silent hum of knowledge (as I tend to call it now) filled the vast structure. After this sole image, my memory fails me because I had more important things on my mind (The Spice Girls) and I never went back.
My next encounter with a library was in high school. I started in a different school than the majority of my friends and it took me some time to find my social footing. As a result, the part of the day I dreaded the most was lunch. At the beginning I used to just sit alone facing the lunch line until some senior girls insisted that I sit with them. For a time this was delightful, until my lunch hour was switched and I never saw them again. One day, I was leaving gym class and I noticed a room filled with computers. I walked inside to discover it was a library.
From that point onward, I snuck into the library (technically, you were not supposed to wander outside the lunchroom.) and did my homework or read a book. This is the place where I discovered “A Walk to Remember,” “Briar Rose,” and the joys of being in a book club. My journeys to the library were soon shortened, though, as security on the lunch exits was tightened and when I could get away the library was hosting a class.
And then I was transferred in the middle of my sophomore year.
My new school required that students complete 40 hours of community service. I quickly needed to think of a place that was flexible and would make my parents happy. For some reason, the library popped into my mind. I went a few days later to be told that dusting bookshelves would be my job. To be honest, I was not elated as the reference librarian handed me a Swiffer hand duster and asked me to fill out the paperwork.
I unwillingly ambled my way towards the YA section and my future. From here, I joined the library’s teen book club, then found myself reading books during lunch and between classes, joining the school newspaper as a book reviewer, becoming an expert page (bookshelf-er), and completing my hours without even a thought.
I share these less than droll experiences with you for one reason: Give your library a chance this summer. Be it the public library, your school library, the library gathering dust in your house—it will change you in unexplainable ways.