Libraries Change Lives…

Roy Mackenzie | July 12, 2016

The South Central Library System of Wisconsin is running a very interesting campaign called Libraries For Real Life: What’s Your Story? Patrons and users are encouraged to share their stories about the library and what it means to them. You can read some of the many incredible and touching stories on the site.

This campaign reminded me of my own journey into the world of libraries. When I was a child, my parents made getting our first library cards a special occasion. It was a big deal to finally have that card and to scrawl our name on the back. I was in first grade when I finally got my card, and I quickly hid it away in my cherished Batman wallet.

While my hometown’s small library is positively dwarfed by the beautiful libraries here in Brookline, it was still a magical place for six-year-old me. I couldn’t believe that I was allowed to pick out anything I wanted, and they would let me take it home for free. It wasn’t quite as exciting as having a birthday, but it wasn’t far off.

You can imagine, then, my horror when I accidentally left a book outside–a picture book version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea–and ruined it.

Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

(Thankfully *not* the copy I ruined.)

My brother and I were “camping” in the back yard, and I left the book on a picnic table when we went to sleep. During the night, it rained, and the book was soaked through. I was worried that I would never be allowed to use the library again. I had visions of the librarians scolding me and taking away my card forever. Lucky for me, we were able to replace the book and the librarians assured me that I was still welcome to come in and check out books (just try not to let them get rained on).

While that experience didn’t lead me to become a librarian, it did help cement my lifelong love of libraries. It wasn’t just that I had access to so many wonderful books, it was the caring and considerate staff who helped calm down a panicked six-year-old and made him feel welcome even after a rainy day mistake.

That’s my story; what’s yours?