One of my earliest memories is in the Jamaica Plain Public Library, at a big oak table. I was standing on a chair because I was too little to see over the table sitting down, using safety scissors, glitter glue and pom-poms to make a Christmas ornament. We still have that ornament, and it hangs on our tree every year. I remember making it while surrounded by all the other toddlers — parents chatting, craft supplies spread out on the table — tucked away in the corner of the children’s section between tall stacks of books.
We went to the library almost every day when I was a kid. We’d sit and read or craft, and sometimes they’d even bring in a magician to perform in the freezing cold basement. I remember being five and having my face painted for my first day of kindergarten, wearing a big yellow T-shirt that they gave out. I remember being seven, watching a puppet show and sitting on folding chairs. I remember being 10, redeeming my summer reading log points for books of my own that I took home. I remember being 12, writing an essay about a book I loved and winning Red Sox tickets from it. It was a special place for me, and I even met some of my closest friends today there when I was a kid. I could sit between the stacks and devour books, escaping to worlds far away from my own.
Going to the library is a much different experience than reading online in your own home — it’s about the feeling of being there. And libraries aren’t just about books! There are so many cool events and opportunities to be found at your local library. All you need to do is look for them.
The benefits of going to the library aren’t reserved for kids. There’s also free internet access, and often job training workshops and tons of free events that may interest people of any age. The Boston Public Library even offers discounted tickets to museums, the zoo, and the Aquarium. There is so much more than most people realize, all ready and available for people to take advantage of.
The problem is that many public libraries are underfunded. They are overlooked for the jobs and services that they provide, and communities can suffer as a result. This is especially true In COVID times. There is no longer a chance to go wander the shelves, pick a comfy chair, and sit with a book for a while. Libraries have taken a really hard hit during this pandemic, and it’s something that people aren’t talking about enough.
Some people also have the idea that libraries are unnecessary due to the fact that so much information can be found online. If you want a book, it’s very easy to get it without leaving your house. But this idea ignores so much that libraries provide, and just how important they can be.
Reading so much and going to the library so often as a kid definitely shaped who I am today. It inspired my love of reading and writing. I still read today, and I definitely would not be such a fan of books and literature if the library was not such a foundational part of my childhood. I devoured books as a kid, always coming home with them stacked in my arms. It made me curious about the world and things that were different than me. Through the books I read, I was able to learn about people and places that were far away, about experiences that weren’t my own.
Without reading, my world would have stopped and started with what I saw and what I experienced. I found a whole new world in books, and in the nooks of the library. It was calm and quiet, and I could be transported anywhere in the world, and to worlds outside of mine. I am the person I am today because of that. It expanded my imagination and allowed me to be creative.
Libraries serve a huge and important role in our society, especially for children. It is so important for children to read, and it’s known that reading books from a young age impacts kids as they develop. For kids who may not otherwise have access to as many books, libraries offer an unlimited selection for free. Libraries are places like no other, and they should be supported and appreciated for all that they do.