Library Thief Turns Friend

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Most of us have fond memories of our hometown public library, and some of us can recall stories of how a library or librarian touched our life in a profound and meaningful way. Here at I Love Libraries, we invite readers to share these stories. So far we have received many. Some are moving, some are inspirational, and some are quite funny. Larry Burns’ story is all three.

Recently, Larry – an artist, musician, and highway sign maker from Barberton, OH – shared with us a story from his childhood,  when one encounter with a kind and understanding librarian opened up a whole new world for him. To this day, Larry remains a faithful and enthusiastic patron of his local public library, and every summer, he volunteers to teach a free, 4-session guitar workshop at Barberton Public Library).

Here is Larry’s story:

This story actually took place when I was about 10 years old (around 1959), when I was a kid in the lower east side of Akron, Ohio.

When I was a kid, I had a strong interest in art. While I was browsing around the art book section of the East Akron Branch of the Akron Public Library, I saw a drawing book that I really liked. So I decided to sneak it out of the library.

As I was going out the door, I got caught. The librarian took me to the office and asked me why I wanted to steal the book. And of course I gave the usual intelligent 10 year old response: "I don't know!!”

But instead of calling the cops, she said, "Why do you want to steal it, when it's your book anyway?" She told me, "All the books in the library are yours, we just store them for you. Don't you have a library card?"

I shook my head. So she said, "Well ok, let's get you one."

After she signed me up for a library card, she checked the book out to me and told me, “Now you can keep the book for two weeks, and if you need it longer, come back and I'll renew it for another two weeks.”

I was proud of my new library card, and it really made me feel important. From that day on, she would help me find other art books. I also had an interest in music so she helped get books on drums to help me when I later ended up in school band.

Looking back on that now - although it seems like such a small thing - I really feel it was a life changing event. Today, I'm an artist and musician (jazz drummer & Irish guitarist) and I do volunteer work, teaching a guitar workshop, for the Barberton Public Library.

Got a story to tell about how the library changed your life? Tell us about it!