I had so much fun at the Indianapolis Library Foundation’s Cheers for 50 Years event last week to celebrate 50 years of ensuring quality programming for the library! I got to speak about how the library impacted me and represent young library users of the 1990s, and thought I would share my remarks below. Happy reading!
Stories are important. Just as a scientist finds it important to capture a black hole on film for the first time, I find it important to capture our ideas, moments, and experiences on pages that are shared widely and available to all who want to read them.
Our ability to do that – to share stories - is thanks to libraries. I can’t imagine thinking this way if I didn’t grow up visiting the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library branches.
My parents are the ones who introduced me to the library, who taught me to love to read, and who taught me how to share stories. I wouldn’t know about Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Woods if my dad didn’t read to me before bed. I wouldn’t know about Madeline and twelve little girls in two straight lines if it weren’t for the library story times my mom took me to. I wouldn’t know about a little girl in a little house on a little prairie if I hadn’t gotten my library card when I was just six-years-old, clutching the blue plastic with my scrawled name on the back all the way home.
I would not know these things because I would not have been as curious as I am about stories. I would not have ferociously read as many books as I could to get points in the summer reading program. I would not have gone to the library at least every Saturday (but most likely more) if it were not for all the options on the shelves, sparking my curiosity. I was taught to read what I wanted, and as much as I wanted.
Because of this dedication, as a child I was confident in who I was and who I wanted to be. I saw that confidence reflected in the characters I befriended. Young women like Nancy Drew, Betsy-Tacy, and Hermione told me that it was okay to love books and to want to be alone sometimes, and that I wasn’t the only one picked on for my “smarts.” I knew that you could be different. That different lives happen around the world, and those different stories are worth knowing about.
That’s a meaningful thing to share with children; that’s what ensures every generation understands more than just their own experiences. And that’s why we do whatever we can to keep our libraries. So join me in supporting this mission, of spreading stories to every child who wants to hear them, however they need to hear it. And let’s never forget that we are far stronger when we’re curious about stories that come from the world around us.