Thursday, April 17, 2014

How A Library Changed My Life: For National Library Week

Before the age of 14-15, I don't think I read a book for fun once in my entire life.

My New York City library card is unusable TO THIS VERY DAY because I never returned the books on Native Americans I took out in the fifth grade. Not that I cared at the time. I remember kids talking about Harry Potter during a book report and I thought is he a gardener? (I also didn't pay much attention to my classmates). My family were TV people, not book people.

When I moved to Ohio to start High School, I met a girl who would be become my best friend; her name was Brittani. Brittani's mom was a librarian at the Warren Trumbull Public Library and had asked Brittani to join the Teen Advisory Board (TAB) to which, as any good friend would do, she then dragged me to. Once a month, we did things like write letters to soldiers to accompany the books we picked to send them and discuss books we read recently and liked. 

My old library

I never had anything to say in the meetings because A. I didn't read for fun and B. I don't talk easily in groups of strangers.

However, I do remember two teenage boys regulars who were so enthusiastic and vocal about the fantasy novels they had read (and possibly Dungeons and Dragons too). Their little seen, highly unacceptable public display of love for all things geek was something I couldn't understand or fathom expressing myself. At the same time, I was jealous of how they had this thing in their lives that made them so excited and happy they didn't care what others thought. I didn't have anything like that in mine. I wanted to see if I too could find that in books.

So after a meeting where we talked about fantasy novels specifically, I went to the Young Adult and Adult sections and looked through the mixed genre books, trying to find something that interested me. This was about 2003 so the YA section is not what it is now. Lots of Young Adult books were mixed in the Adult section. The Young Adult section was filled with the Babysitter's Club and dull covers from the 1960's. Neither really appealed to me. 

I just grabbed a bunch a books at random that looked interesting. I remember only one called Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea.

Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea

I never did read Mother Ocean, Daughter Sea. I don't remember what exactly I did read that made me come back for more but soon I was taking 10-15 books home every week, reading maybe 2-4 that interested me and returning the rest. I remember walking to the library in the summer heat a few times a week and staying up to 4-5 in the morning to finish a book.

I still do these things to this day. Well, except the walking part. I can drive now. And the staying up all night. I can't take a messed up sleep schedule anymore (that makes me feel old to admit).

So what am I trying to say? I'm trying to say the library made me the person I am today. That if it hadn't been for that Teen Advisory Board or my friend's librarian mother, my life would be different. Would I have started reading for fun? Would I have found my love of Young Adult? Would I known what it was like to have something you can squeal to others about even if they'll think you're a nerd or uncool? I'm not sure and that makes me sad. It makes me sad that if libraries close, other shy lonely kids won't be able to find what I did.

As an adult, I still read Young Adult. I spend weeknights reading until I'm too tired to keep my eyes open. Or working on my book blog. Or writing my own novel. I spend weekends at book events or my YA book club. Reading is a part of my life and who I am.

So thank you so much libraries and librarians for giving this girl something in life that feels like her own and makes her happy.