Saturday, April 25, 2015

Love Libraries: Letter to my High School Librarian

Dear Nicola,

It's been almost 20 years since the start of my high school experience. And as it is for a lot of people, high school was a special kind of hell for me.  There are so many pressures in high school. To do well academically, sure. But that always feels like it takes a back seat to your social standing: how well you dress and pressures over your appearance and the way you talk and act and behave and how well all of that does (or doesn't!) fit in with what's cool and what's not. And in the midst of all these pressures, there was the library.  And for me the library brought sanctuary.

And I'm writing this letter now to say thank you. Thank you for playing your part so well in providing me and others like me with a safe haven from the pressures of high school.  I entered the school library and I could breathe fully. It was a place where I belonged and where I didn't have to worry about anything else except the smell and touch of books.

Of course I used the library for all those things that everyone used the library for: a quiet place to study, to research for school projects, to photocopy things and to print stuff off, checking the Internet in a world before smart phones. But when I think about my experiences in your school library, all of those things don't ever come to mind.  Instead, what I remember is how I felt when I walked through those doors. And how I felt after finding that perfect book for me.

And you helped me with that too.  I came to you for suggestions and it was you who first introduced me to Jane Austen and to magical realism writers like Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. You recommended authors that showed me beauty, who made me think or laugh or to books that made me fall into someplace that was not my life for a few hours. You opened new worlds to me with your suggestions and for that I am forever grateful.

But I think even more important than your suggestions for what to read next was that you asked your questions.  You asked me what I like to read, what I'd like to read about that the library didn't have. You asked me to have an opinion and to share that opinion. And the fact that you asked me for it and then listened to my opinions as being valid and important was one of the biggest turning points of my high school career. I'm in my 30s now and I still remember that feeling when I walked into the library and saw books on a topic I'd suggested on the 'New Books' shelf.

Thank you. Thank you for creating an area where I felt safe in a school that was no friend to me. Thank you for your book recommendations. Thank you for inspiring me and for giving me a boost of confidence when I most needed it.  I'll always remember you with fondness.

Yours sincerely,

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