I love books. I’ve always loved books. I grew up surrounded by avid readers. My Nana had stacks of books everywhere. Growing up on a small farm in the middle of nowhere, books were an escape. They taught me about the world and about myself. I suppose you could even say they inspired me to become a writer. Words can transform a moment or a mood. They can even transform a little girl’s farmhouse bedroom into a forest or a castle or an ocean. As an adult, my mantra has always been this:
I’ll never say “no” to a book.
As a mom, the same still goes. You better believe I’ll say no to a video game or a toy or a hamster (definitely “no” to a hamster). But, a book? Here. Just take my money. My 11-year-old son has books on his shelves, books under his bed, books in the living room, books in his closet. Like my Nana, they’re everywhere. He’s not a chapter book fan. He has zero interest in Harry Potter (I know, I know), but he can’t get enough of graphic comic-type novels. He loves anime. We’re surrounded by them. And, while I’ll never say “no” to a book, I’ll also never say “no” to my mortgage.
But, luckily, there’s a place filled with possibilities. Free possibilities. The public library.
I’m a big fan of a good library. Honestly, any library is a good library. It doesn’t have to be grand with a million titles. My library growing up was one small building with one small librarian and certainly no magical 4th Floor. (If you’ve been to the Main Branch of the Chattanooga Public Library, you know what I mean about the 4th Floor.) But, a library doesn’t need a 4th Floor to be magic. If a library with only one book inspires or educates just one person, then I say it’s done its job. For me as a child, the library was my escape. For my son, the library is like an Idea Department Store. Each time we’re there, I watch him walk the aisles of the young adult section. He pulls out a random title that he’s never heard of and tries on the idea of it. One by one, he pulls titles out then returns them until he finally finds one (or two or ten) that fits. Sometimes it’s the usual. And, sometimes it’s a complete surprise. After all, a library is a safe place to push your own boundaries.
A library is a safe place to discover something new and surprising about yourself.
On our way home from our last trip to the library, my son and I talked about the “life” of a library book. Who had read it last? Did they take it on a trip? Did they read it in one day like he would? Public libraries connect us to so much. They connect us to stories that offer escape. They connect us to knowledge that helps us learn. They connect us to the whole wide world even when we’re on a small, quiet farm. But, most importantly, they connect us to each other. Whether it’s through their programming or events or even just the thought of who held and read a book before him. My son sees himself as part of the bigger picture. He sees himself as more than his own story. He can be a part of any story.