A Shout-out to Books, Libraries, and Dolly Parton

By Karen B. 

More than two years have passed since I left hospital nursing. The words I penned in my farewell note to my obstetrics colleagues, some of whom I’d worked alongside for nearly twenty-two years, were bittersweet. I’m replacing the magic of birth with the magic of books.

Since then, I haven’t looked back. I now have the pleasure of working with two exceptional teacher-librarians at Hellgate High School. Daily, I’m touched by interactions with students and staff. Students’ impassioned “you have to read this!” recommendations have introduced me to books I would not have chosen on my own. I’ve had occasion to suggest books as well, not only the gut-wrenching, realistic fiction I gravitate toward, but other genres, too. Along the way, some students have confided heartbreaking experiences of their own.

Others have shared their interests and aspirations. Months ago, I asked a student her last name in order to loan her a book. I’d remembered her first name, but had to clear out some of the nursing stuff in my memory bank to make room for more names, I’d explained. “You were a nurse?” she said, not waiting for a response. “Was it worth it? I want to be a nurse.” “It was.” We chatted about nursing as we walked to the stacks, to a collection of stories by nurses.
Flipping through the pages of my book she said, “I’ll have to read this,” and she told me she’d read it later. As we returned to the front, she said again, “I want to be a nurse. I want to do something important.” I told her that was great; that we needed more nurses. I told her I’d been at hundreds of births, which had been important, “but sharing books is important, too.” She shot me a quizzical look, unconvinced.

I’ve seen her several times since, and she’s borrowed a number of books. She hasn’t read my nursing book yet, but I hope she will. And if she does choose to become a nurse, I know she’ll be an asset to the profession. She, and others, continue to affirm my conviction that libraries and books are two of our most precious resources. Thanks to United Way of Missoula County and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, the youngest among us—from birth to age five—may now begin building libraries of their own.

“Dolly grew up in abject poverty in Tennessee, as many of you know, but she always believed the world of books opened up life for her.” United Way of Missoula County CEO Susan Hay Patrick

Dolly Parton is a believer. I am too. We know that magic happens. In books. In libraries. And in life.

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