Ten years ago, on this day, I walked into our palatial library with my husband and 2 young children in tow. As we drove in, we were astonished to see police officers directing traffic. The grand opening of my branch attracted a huge crowd, about 7000 community members – large enough for the county to send police officers to manage flow of people and cars. I remember walking around in awe, looking at the space, the gleaming stacks and columns, the terrace, the collection. Each book seemed new, smelled new. I remember thinking working at a library such as this would be a dream come true.
The dream did come true for me as I was hired as a Part Time Customer Service Specialist only seven months after the grand opening of the building. Within a year, I switched departments and joined the Research and Instructor team but remained part time to take care of the children. After a couple of years, I got a Full Time position in the same department and I work there still.
I have written before and write often how life affirming working at a public library can be. We get to interact with a microcosm of humanity almost on a daily basis and we realize 98% of the people, our customers, are kind. But apart from the sense of purpose that I find at my job, my work place has proved to be my anchor when I realized I was slowly sinking to a deep, dark place after both my parents died. I was told to take as much time as I needed. But after a few days of baba’s death, I felt I was succumbing in the quicksand of grief and I needed something to emerge from those depths of suffocating sorrow. I went back to the library. I wanted to be by myself, but needed to be busy. My colleagues gave me that space but remained close enough for support. I remember shelving cart after cart when I first came back. Shelving carts of materials kept me moving, and gave my mind a sense of numbness that it sorely needed. Between the stacks with only books for company, I found some semblance of peace. Public libraries are assets in the community. It comes to the aid of many as they look for opportunities to move ahead in life. It came to my aid by providing me with a job, a group of caring colleagues who have become family and my public library job saved me when I needed saving.
So happy birthday, my library. May your journey to enrich people’s lives continue, may you continue to promote equity and inclusion, may you continue to be a safe place for all and a cornerstone for the community. I am blessed to be part of that journey for a while.