By Stephanie W.
I grew up in a remote northern Ontario town, where the public library was, at first, too far away to visit. But a bookmobile came around every 3 weeks, and we were allowed to check out 2 books at a time. I had learned to read early, and always finished my 2 books within days, which left me waiting, eagerly, for return visits. Then when I was 8, a tiny branch library opened in a local strip mall, and my life changed. I virtually lived there, and devoured first the children’s section, and then, with my parents’ signed permission, the adult section. I read everything from Encyclopedia Brown to the Encyclopedia of Human Biology. My parents stressed the importance of education and reading, but were anything but wealthy, and could never have afforded to buy me everything – or much of – what I devoured. I directly credit libraries for the fact that I never thought that lack of money meant that I would be shut out of the joys of education, reading, or knowledge.
The public library was a refuge as well: a small, smart kid was inevitably a target for bullies, and the library was the last place they looked. Ultimately, I went on to do 3 degrees, taking courses in everything I could fit into my time: computer science, network design, English, French, Russian literature, math, film, psychology, and more. I credit this to libraries, which fostered in me an unquenchable curiosity. They also funded my education: I took jobs in libraries, among other places, to earn money to help fund my education habit. Ultimately, after two other career starts (as a programmer, and then teaching English), I went back to school for a Masters in Library & Information Science. I now manage a library and IT unit for a mid-size college in the US, and I can still be found at my local public library every 2nd Saturday, indulging my ongoing reading addiction. The library is always packed to the gills, with everyone from new immigrants to children to job-seekers to community groups; if anything, it’s gotten busier and busier in recent years. To my mother, I say “When I was a child, any time I said I was bored, you sent me to the library. I spent so much time there, I just had to become a librarian.”