During National Libraries Week, a time to celebrate and champion our libraries, I wanted to share the transformational ways public libraries have impacted me at the different stages of my life.
When I was a young child, libraries gave our family a space to build English literacy and form connections in a community where we felt like outsiders. As refugees from Afghanistan, we struggled financially and had few to no extracurricular enrichment options outside of school. Public libraries not only provided us with access to books and digital media, but helped us form relationships with families of diverse backgrounds that extended outside of the libraries. This invaluable resource was important all year, particularly during the school–free summer months when it made cost-free English and social enrichment available to our entire family. These early transformational experiences were central in developing my lifelong love of reading, learning, and community building.
As a teenager, public libraries provided me and my friends a safe and welcoming place to go to after school. I have fond memories of heading to the library to finish my homework, play board games, and socialize. I also discovered my love of reading for pleasure as novels became a gateway to other cultures, life experiences, and viewpoints that were not otherwise accessible to me. With so few options for young adults to gather safely and affordably gather and learn, public libraries filled this need for me and many of my peers.
More recently, as a parent of three young children, I have continued to experience the value that public libraries bring to the communities they serve. With both my husband and I working outside of the home and facing high childcare costs, we struggled to find affordable opportunities for enriching family activities that were not cost-prohibitive and that were accessible after standard work hours. We were thrilled to discover the extensive weekend children’s programming and extended Wednesday evening hours of the Fox Branch Library. These options have given us accessible and valuable opportunities for learning, leisure, and community building. As our kids have gotten a bit older, Wednesday evening visits to the Fox remain a well-loved tradition that we all look forward to.
While it would be difficult to quantify the value of what public libraries have given me and my family, I can say that the benefits have been profound. Public libraries are an irreplaceable asset to the people they serve and I am proud to help ensure they remain a thriving community resource for generations to come.