Alicia from Chicago, Illinois

The library has always been important to me. I can remember the short trips that I took inside James Otis School; as our teacher led us to a school library. My first stop was always the librarian’s desk, asking her for a “new” bookmark for books. The choices were sometimes very good; she gladly gave away bookmarks. Then I would run to see the books, within my reach. I was in awe of the wonderfully stocked bookshelves of this tiny looking room. I enjoyed looking at all the pictures on the cover and the inside of the books, they were colorful and cheerful. I was beginning to learn to read and enjoying my journey there. Books came in all sizes and shapes this encouraged you to pick them up. 

Soon 1985 approached and I was a fourteen years old girl, in 7th grade, I had few friends. This was before the time of computers and I had begun reading books in English at this time. I had previously been in Bilingual classes; in fifth grade they were meant to be transition from learning only Spanish to also beginning to learn English. I was excited to find out that I could check out books free of charge and return them at a later time.

My neighborhood library was Eckhart Park, it was a wonderful place for me. The librarians were friendly and very helpful to all students. They helped you find books about your research subjects, to reading for fun. I was caught up with Judy Blume, adventure, and love story books. The library was a safe haven for me, since I did not have many friends; this space was wonderful for me.
Books were my windows into someone else’s life experiences, I visited exciting states through their eyes, I found recipes to cook different foods, I explored different countries, I enjoyed reading smart, funny, or weird poems from authors. Books did not judge me, dislike me, make fun of me, they were my safe friends. They could never let you down and most importantly they never talked back to me.

As I went into high school, the library was still an important part of my life. I visited a couple of other libraries. School assignments sometimes required me to do research on different subjects, so I headed to the library. At this time, tutoring was available at the library, twice a week. This was helpful to me, since no one at home could really help me with my homework. My parents only wrote and spoke in Spanish.

After high school, I became a parent to two wonderful sons and then I introduced them the library. As young children, I would take them to the library and read those books, I would show them books, and let them pick favorite books to check out. Kevin and David are now teenagers and I still take them to the library. There are many new additions to today’s library. There are video cassette books, DVD and VHS movies, magazines, newspapers, internet access, and book clubs. Sometimes there are presentations of local or exotic animals by animal keepers. There are better varieties of books for children and adults to learn from.  

The library helped me enjoy school more, it was a wonderful place to spend time; it helped me deal with my shyness and overcome it. It kept me out of trouble; keeping me busy reading. The librarians were nice to children and encouraged everyone to read books. The library was truly a home to me. It was my special place that stayed the same; as I grew up and life changed around me.

Children today need to be reminded that books are freedom to explore other states or countries, learn about different people, and teach us important information. Libraries are our recycling centers that help the mental development of children to becoming intelligent adults. There are many beautiful libraries that are visited by millions of people; they are wonderful reminders of our innocent childhood. Not biased against our chaotic lives, they calmly wait for our frequent peaceful visits.