People Share Stories Of How Libraries Matter


Two girls making crafts at a table with scissors, markers, and paper cups

A Busy Day At the Library

When you work in a library, there aren’t many opportunities to stop and watch what’s going on around you. Instead, you’re kept busy with materials to shelve, programs to plan, printer ink to replace, resources to find…and the list continues. (For those who wonder if library staff get to read all day, the answer is definitely not!)

However, last Monday I arrived early at a library for a meeting and sat near the front doors to wait. I pulled my phone out to check email, but I soon set it aside. It turned out the entrance wasn’t a quiet, boring place to be. On the contrary, people came in and out so often that I couldn’t help but start to pay attention.

I noticed the parents and grandparents with kids scampering behind them or riding in strollers. The man in the business suit who came in with a coffee and briefcase. The student whose backpack looked too heavy to carry. The twenty-somethings who dropped off their returns and ran back out to their cars. The older couple who strolled in together.

So many different people, but each with a story, a reason to be there, a purpose for opening the door.

Your Libraries, Your Stories

For the past few months, the Bridges Library System has collected stories about how people use their libraries and why the library is important to them. The stories are as varied as the people themselves.

One little girl in a party dress was visiting the library because it was her birthday. One mother talked about developing friendships with other moms while attending storytime with her son. A teen spoke about being accepted at the library as an LGBTQ individual.

An older gentleman named Ralph was looking up Cubs stats online at the Menomonee Falls Public Library when I talked to him. “I have the Internet at home but I come here because the service is better,” he said. A teenager named Tess told me the Oconomowoc Public Library has given her “volunteering opportunities and leadership opportunities, which is really important.” 

We met Maureen at the Karl Junginger Memorial Library in Waterloo, where she has taken classes on genealogy, nutrition, and playing the ukulele. “I was also involved in getting a writer’s workshop up and going here,” she said. Vicky brings her daughters to the Waukesha Public Library several times a week. “We come for fun and educational activities,” she said. “On the schedule pamphlet, we have the programs highlighted and circled so we don’t miss them.”

Jackie had come to the Delafield Public Library to do research for her upcoming backpacking trip when I spoke to her. “The library is like the third place. It’s not home, it’s not work, it’s a special place,” she said.

Each story is different, but with one key thing in common: a deep appreciation for the library’s existence, the simple fact that it is there.

People Are Priorities In the Library

Libraries continue to make people their priorities, even with budget cuts amidst arguments that libraries are no longer necessary in the 21st century. The stories we’ve collected prove how wrong that argument is.

The people of Jefferson and Waukesha County go to their libraries to learn. To make friends. To find answers. To feel safe. The story of a library is the story of the people who use it. As long as that continues, libraries will be here, doors open, ready to serve the next person to walk in.

You can see new stories each Saturday morning on our Facebook page. If you’re interested in sharing your story with us, please contact Jill Fuller at jfuller@bridgeslibrarysystem.org. We’d love to hear what your library means to you.

Written by Jill Fuller. A version of this article appeared in the Waukesha Freeman, the Oconomowoc Enterprise, the Daily Jefferson County Union, the Waterloo Courier, and the Watertown Times. We will be sharing those pieces here on our website a few weeks after each piece has been printed.