Library Stories Show How Libraries Change Lives
“I’ll never forget the day I discovered Mrs. Pickerel. I had finally advanced to chapter books. Mrs. Pickerel and the Geiger Counter broke open my world to mystery, intrigue, quirky female characters, and humor. The best feeling in the world was driving home from the library with 10-12 fresh new books for the week.”
At the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books a few weeks ago, we asked visitors to write down or record their library stories for us. People young and old told stories about how the library has helped them, their favorite childhood memories of the library, and why the library is important to them. It was exciting to hear all of the ways a library can affect so many lives.
In telling us their library stories, many people focused on the role libraries played during their earliest years. One story read, “By the time I was 18, I had moved more times than years I had been alive. Libraries were always a safe haven. They welcomed me, the librarians helped me find what I wanted and suggested new books for me to explore.” Looking back as a young mother, another patron wrote, “My children grew up in the L.D. Fargo Public Library…There are many fond memories of all of the library’s excellent activities over the years.”
Some stories focused on the library as a unique place in the community. One patron wrote, “The library is my place to go for comfort and positive energy- soothing, restful but dynamic and exciting too!” while another said “I love the library because it feels like home.” One story read, “I grew up going to the Waukesha Public Library with my parents. Every visit there was special to me. I knew I would walk away with a stack of books I could curl up with and enjoy being transported to new places.” In one of our videos, a local historian mentioned that “libraries are one of those few, public funky spaces that bring a lot of different kinds of people together and I think that is valuable for the public good.”
Others told us about the specific library services they like to use. “Recently, I have been using the computers to practice my computer skills,” wrote one woman. A teen shared that by attending teen events, “I made a lot of friends and I gained a lot of experience.” Others talked about checking out audiobooks for their commutes, using the Gale Courses online classes, attending Memory Cafes, and doing homework at the library. Another patron shared how the library made a difference for her child: “My son had an exam proctored at the library. He was ill and missed a lot of school and the library helped him catch up on his studies.”
In a world that often asks, “Why do we need libraries?” we collected some real and powerful answers. In doing so, we found that everyone has a unique relationship to the library and an important reason for being there. Do you have a story about your library? Please consider sharing it with us on our new online form. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be yours. Go to tinyurl.com/my-library-story to start. We can’t wait to hear your story too.