Libraries, for those of us who are over 30 (or maybe 40 now) have had the reputation of being those large, often imposing places where someone is waiting to scold you if you make any noise. Such libraries did once exist, and they often were considered very “serious” places.
In the 1990’s, we were raising our three children in the City Center of Birmingham, AL, and the neighborhood library was one of our favorite places to go. We found there not only books that my wife and I as teachers needed for our professional work and our lesson planning, but we found books there to help us in our old house rennovations, our puppy training, and our child rearing.
We found something else there. We also found almost half the library dedicated to children’s materials. We found puppet shows. We found staff people with Early Childhood Education certification. We found school buses that stopped at the library after school to unload scores of children. At 3:30 in the afternoon, all over the city of Birmingham, libraries were full of children. They became affordable after school care for thousands of working families, and because of visionary leadership in the public libraries of Birmingham at the time, they seized the opportunity to make literacy a normal part of the after school experience. I still think with great pride of the generation of children who grew up with the library as a daily experience
The Library will mean many things to us. My own family’s experience of our neighborhood library helped me understand in a new way that the Library can certainly be a gathering place, a caring place, a learning place, a laughing place, a safe place, a helping place. Where do you find those things, those experiences, those people in your world today?