Originally published in the California Focus September 2011.
Growing up, the public library was the center of my world. As a young child it was a chance to spend an afternoon with my mother browsing books followed by a handmade milkshake at the local candy shop. It was time for me to have my mom all to myself without her having to worry about starting dinner or having to share her with my brothers.
Once I was a bit older it was a liberating chance to ride my bike the few blocks unescorted and spend an hour or two getting my hands on ancient mythology books and animal encyclopedias that my school librarian assured me were reserved for the sixth graders only. It was freedom to explore not only my neighborhood, but an entire world filled with Centaurs, Fates and platypuses (yes, that is the correct plural form.)
When I was a young teen the library became a place where I could figure out the world. I would look at the news magazines for stories I heard about while my parents watched the news then begin digging through the encyclopedias and figure out what all the fuss was about. I was always prepared with facts that were sure to impress the next time the topic came up on TV.
As an adult the library provided me with answers. Whether researching for college classes, looking for information on current affairs or how-to’s for the house, or even if I am just looking for something to help me escape into another world. I have found the answers at the library.
My role as a father is the most important one I have ever had and I find the library just as important. The library has provided me with time to focus my undivided attention on my children while we search out books on their interests. It has given me the opportunity to show them the world of the Greeks, strange animals and the many cultures we share on our planet. It has given me the resources to help them form their own opinions on what is going on in their lives and how to help them think through problems and find answers for themselves.
Of course this is all to be expected coming from a librarian. The real question is what does the library mean to you? Over the next few weeks I will be asking many of our community members this question and I am genuinely interested in the response. A library serves many functions; by better understanding what it means to you, we can better serve you. It also gives us a chance to see where we have come from and just as importantly where we are going.