The public library: a haven of calm and hope for a better future (VIDEO)

In our digital age, we may take libraries for granted. This video of how a little girl migrant worker’s life was transformed by a bookmobile is reason to put that dormant library card to use.

Rob and Julia Campbell | Stocksy United

Every bibliophile, especially those of us who are age 30 or older, has at least one warm-fuzzy memory about a library, filed away in the dusty archives of our brains: the joy you felt when signing up for your very first card, the smell of the very first plastic-covered book your borrowed, the librarian who shushed you, but also welcomed you into a quiet space and taught you something new.

Sadly, with reports that fewer and fewer Americans are visiting libraries and bookmobiles each year, sometimes it can feel like public libraries have become just that: a faded, cherished memory. But don’t count them out just yet.

As much as high-power search engines give us, research suggests that Google can’t really replace all that physical libraries have to offer, and the LA Times reported a surprising statistic that millennials are reading print books at a slightly higher rate than older generations. Plus, today, libraries offer so much for the modern world: computer use, educational classes, movie rentals, guest speaker events, public meetings, art openings, swing by social events, GED programs for immigrants, and so much more. Those resources make them an essential educational lifeline for many communities. (Consider the fact that only 67 percent of Americans have Broadband at home, and so come to libraries for their non-mobile Internet needs.)

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But libraries are more than all those crucial offerings, too: they’re places for quiet reflection, self discovery, and for shoring up the soul. The stacks of knowledge they provide don’t just educate entire communities, they inspire individuals, too. And that’s an important thing for our communities to remember.

Just watch this StoryCorps video about Storm Reyes, a Native American woman from Washington state. The career librarian grew up as the child of poverty-stricken migrant workers who couldn’t own books because they were too heavy to constantly carry from farm to farm. But as Reyes tells it, her life changed forever when she was eight years old and a bookmobile visited the fields where she and her parents were working. It immediately became her haven, and helped her find the courage to pull herself up into a different life.

Without her books Reyes might have been afraid to pursue an education away from home, or to want a different life path for herself. But the knowledge she found in books empowered her: “The more you know about something, the less you will fear it,” she says.

This is just one story of so many that remind us why libraries need to endure, and why bookmobiles are a worthy cause. Not just because of the modern resources they provide, but because of their traditional purpose: as places for people to find themselves. We need a quiet space among all the chatter and buzz to study, reflect, dream, and plan. It’s what makes libraries special, even sacred, places for btoh kids and adults.

Last Tuesday, the American Library Association celebrated 140 years since its founding. Here’s to at least 140 more, so that we can keep libraries around, and continue to inspire and empower new generations of kids to kickstart their own life stories.


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