Library Essay Contest Entry

Sue Smith

How the Library Has Helped Me

My first encounter with a library came in a small southwest Missouri town. It was one of those stately limestone structures funded by steel-magnate-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Inside it was a little musty, but it had a noble elegance with its high ceilings and dark woodwork. And even if it had featured the bright colors and intriguing designs of today’s public libraries, it would still have had one resounding feature—silence.

As a child, that perpetual silence, where you only spoke to the librarian in a whisper, and she did likewise, seemed to say "Respect the knowledge that must be tucked away on each shelf, regardless of the subject matter."

It seemed that everyone who trudged up the steps, opened those heavy front doors, and ventured inside understood that respect idea. No one seemed to mishandle the books, disturb the entries in the card catalog, or dare dream of the day when computers and the internet would turn the world of traditional libraries upside down.

Since then, libraries have been a huge part of my life. They have helped me be a more knowledgeable student, a more creative teacher, a better-informed retiree, and a forward-thinking woman. Quite a return on the taxpayers' investment.

I've never found a librarian who couldn’t help me find the things I needed to know. And they always did it with enthusiasm. Coming from a family of readers—Mom was into fiction; Dad read the daily news from cover to cover—maybe enjoying the feel of a book in my hand was inherited. Regardless, I'll be forever thankful to the librarians who guided my quest and all the wonderful facilities they watched over.

Not since the 1600s has anyone been able to know all there is to know. But the libraries I've used and enjoyed always gave me the feeling that I could access our growing store of information in ways never possible in days gone by.

I treasure the power that my badly worn library card has bestowed on me. I value the things I've learned by way of libraries, especially new ideas that really gave my brain a workout. And with each passing day, librarians everywhere are thinking of new and exciting ways to show readers and learners of all ages that the sky's the limit—there's nothing we can't find to think about or learn to do, once we enter the library doors, whether real or virtual.

All in all, libraries may deliver more "bang for the buck" than anything around. They can help us be lifelong learners. They can bring new perspectives to our thinking. And they can make the world a better place for all of us. For that, I will always be grateful. Hopefully, you will too.

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