When I grow up I want to be a LIBRARIAN. Well okay maybe not but I’d LOVE to work at a library. The smell of books. the information overload, the café, the wifi, the friendly faces make me feel at home.
Growing up in the Philippines, I didn’t have access to any public library. It just isn’t the community center it is over here. So imagine my joy when I found myself in a lonely suburb of New Jersey – I found my place at the library – there were movies, books, and magazines. I literally lost myself there and found my new calling: library volunteer!
When I had my first child, the library offered us solace. They had a story time and craft session as many libraries do so I found a place to connect with other moms and their kids in real life as opposed to virtually online. The librarians – Ms. Sandy, Ms. Connie and the director Michele became good friends. We had gone to the library so often that my son thought it was HIS personal library and really it was. The library totally nurtured his thirst for knowledge through books and videos – first it was Thomas the Tank Engine, then trucks and of course, dinosaurs! Eventually I started volunteering at the library and this took my devotion to greater heights. The Library Company of Burlington is quaint and historic – it is the oldest library in continuous operation in New Jersey (1757) and has the distinction of being the seventh oldest in the United States. It felt like I was part of history.
I created a writing program for kids 12-17 and met wonderful kids who like me, seemed to be trying to find themselves. The program evolved from simple writing sessions to manga viewings and eventually, a grant-funded group which we called the Teen Advisors Guild. (TAG) To this day, my core group of 6 girls and I are close. They are all in college and doing well.
When I moved to California, one of the first things I did was seek the library. And boy was I happy when I found it. The Huntington Beach Central Library was much bigger than our little historic New Jersey library – the children’s section was impressive and the grounds outside (Huntington Beach Central Park) felt like an oasis. I got a library card before my drivers’ license!
And now I am once again a volunteer, this time, as a member of the Friends of the Children’s Library. I attend meetings once a month and volunteer during special events whenever I can.
It is sad to hear about libraries closing and staff getting laid off. You would think that especially in these challenging financial times, more effort (and money) would be spent in keeping libraries open. For families looking for entertainment, there are inexpensive if not free activities at the library and for job seekers, there are the many resources – computers, periodicals etc. Libraries are the heart and soul of a community. More than just a place to store books, they play a role in shaping young minds, promoting literacy, providing support to students, job seekers and entrepreneurs.
If you haven’t checked out your local library, please do and support them in any way you can.