Sandra from Houston, Texas

Every day, people of all ages and backgrounds from rural, suburban and urban communities across the country turn to their libraries to find jobs or go online, to get help with homework or complex research projects, to start on a business plan, connect with their kids or simply find a space to relax. For every person who loves libraries, there is a story about what the library means to them. We want to collect and share those stories. Is the library important to you? Do you have a story to tell?

In the above description of what a library can be for several people, the one that saved my life was left out. A space to feel safe. During my high school years of hormone induced mental balance, I knew that I could depend on my school or local library. I remember the distinct smell of books, the smell of the carpet, the wooden shelves and the soft gardenia smell of one of my favorite librarians. There were many times when I was frustrated, angry or sad and I would see my high school librarian's face and knew there was a bigger world out there. That beyond the walls of that high school there was something more to look forward to besides being bullied, or not fitting in because I was Latina or feeling like I wasn't wearing the right clothes. Instead my librarian would show me books about my culture. She showed me beautiful stories that changed and shaped my life. She showed me that being Mexican was beautiful through written words and books full of art by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. She showed me that yes, in fact I could too one day be a librarian. She showed me, when no one else would, that I was beautiful through the power of books. That librarian in my high school, in particular, literally saved my life and helped me embrace the real me. Instead of trying to fit in to a culture that was not mine, she helped me be a "Mejicana" and love it.

A library is an exquisite resource that unfortunately goes untapped, but I believe that with just one little spark and going out to the communities, we can see the lighting of that fire. Without libraries some of us would not be who we are. I am a 30 year old Mexican-American born in America to two immigrant parents. My parents have always explained that school is very important and it is the only inheritance they will leave me when they die. They have always pushed me in a positive way to think outside of the box. I remember when I was younger my mom would come home from work, tired and full of food stains from cooking all day, but she knew that when she saw my face I really, really needed to go to the library. She would say "Ok, vamos!", which means 'ok, let's go!' but it was always a stressful 20 minute drive to think of what section I wanted books from because it was an in and out trip. Library visits were on a time crunch because my mom either had to cook dinner or had to go to another job, but she always made time.

I remember there was one librarian in particular that was someone incredible to me, she was a Latina librarian. She always smiled, had long hair and was very helpful. She was the only librarian that I had ever seen that looked just like me. As I was growing up, she remained there and got older with me and always greeted me with "How are you mija?" which translates to "how are you my daughter?" but in the Latino community that word is simply a term of endearment for a female that is younger than you. I will never forget being amazed that she had the same brown skin as me, the same language as me and knew so much about so many things. She was a source of inspiration for me growing up. The library serves as inspiration, another trait not listed in the list of what libraries can do for you.

These two librarians within these two separate libraries were the result of the creation of who I am, alongside my parents of course. I am a first generation college graduate. No one else in my entire family has a degree. I have a degree in English and Philosophy and am currently attending the University of North Texas working on my Masters in Library Information Science. I originally intended to focus on archiving and preservation but am now leaning towards school librarian so that I too can embrace my community and create outreach programs for my community and other minorities that need a role model. Libraries are life changing. Let's teach people about that! "Juntos"!, which means "together"