There are many reasons why we love libraries. They provide great resources to communities. They foster a love of reading. Librarians are also just plain cool. And a lot of the time, the feelings we associate with libraries are deeply personal and (hopefully) heartwarming.
I was a library late bloomer. As a child, my grandmother usually took my brother and I to the local Barnes & Noble where I’d read books to my brother until my grandmother was done browsing. I didn’t really frequent the library when I lived in South Florida, and it wasn’t until my late teens did I fall in love with my local library system.
My family relocated to North Florida, a very rural area, when I was around thirteen. Driving was a necessity, unlike where I live now in Boston. It took an hour to get anywhere that could constitute civilization and you may as well forget about getting ice cream at the grocery store, since by the time you made it home an hour later, you’d essentially have a gallon of soup in your car thanks to the Florida sun.
At nineteen, my life was put on pause for a little bit. I was living forty-five minutes away from where my family called home, attending college and generally being an obnoxious university student. But then my mom left. She was the one who ran the household, while my dad traveled around for work, which kept him away for weeks at time.
So when my mom, who has suffered with bipolar disorder and depression for as long as I can remember, had a meltdown and just took off, there was no one to make sure the animals (including my fourteen year old brother) were fed. There was no one to do the little things like checking the mail and nagging my brother to do his homework. Taking a temporary leave from school, I moved back home since my dad couldn’t just stop working.
It wasn’t the most ideal situation, and I often found myself going stir crazy. I didn’t really want to explain to friends why I had left. I’d say around that same time was when I had also discovered Goodreads and the awesome community of groups that sponsored reading challenges. I’d make lists and lists of titles I wanted to read, and I finally broke down and drove the hour to the main branch of the Alachua County Library and got myself a card. Because let’s be real, there was no way I could afford to buy all these books I had hoped to read.
Soon, I was making the drive to browse the stacks or pick up holds a couple times a week. It was therapeutic for me. It gave me a routine and something to look forward to after finishing another book. Getting a notice that a hold was in was similar to Christmas and I loved seeing my little stack of books waiting for me when I went to pick them up.
I don’t think the librarians there ever knew how much they helped me keep my sanity. I didn’t often ask for their help and was definitely a solitary library user, but I appreciate the library system and its staff for just being there when I needed it. I’m sure there are countless other stories from library patrons just like mine, people who have been helped by their libraries and never said anything. And though it’s a little late (about seven years late), this is my thank you.