Why Use The Library? – Enrichment

Woman readingIn many people’s lives, libraries are more than just a place

Libraries are not just buildings full of books. Oftentimes, they help people discover their passion, their family roots or even a sense of community.

As a child, Theresa Macdonald would lunge up the big steps of the bookmobile that arrived weekly near her house in Phoenix, Arizona. She says that bus was “a wonderland of books” where she would check out as large a stack as she could carry. At first, Macdonald would browse through landscaping and gardening books just to look at the pictures, but they inspired her so much she decided to study horticulture in college. She says she still heads to libraries for help, whether it’s for baking, raising children or unraveling the mysteries of the universe. “I know that somewhere in the library, there is a book that has some answers and will enlighten me,” she says.

Nancy Raines says she grew up feeling like a lost child. She was adopted at a young age and often wondered about her origins. But a link provided by her local library opened up her world. It allowed her to trace her family genealogy back to the 1600s. She even reunited with her biological family and met her eight siblings. “The library made a significant difference in my life,” Raines says.

Retired speechwriter John Camper has been using libraries ever since he was a child. But as he has aged, he appreciates libraries more and more. One reason is because it’s economical, Camper says. “I check out a lot of books—I like to read—and it’s a lot cheaper than buying them.”

Camper also enjoys the convenience libraries offer, not just inside the library but also in the comfort of his home. He rarely use microfilm archives at libraries anymore. Instead he logs online to newspaper archives that libraries offer.

For Katherine Schneider, the library is her window to the world. Blind from birth, she says the librarian at the Michigan library for the blind was her hero. She recalls the librarian sending books in Braille and on records from the Library of Congress through the mail. “When those big boxes of Braille books arrived on the front porch, my anticipation was just about as great as it was before Christmas,” she says.

Now a retired clinical psychologist, those books allowed her to lose herself in somebody else’s world. Now instead of going to the library, Schneider says she logs online—via a computer that talks—and picks books that she’d like delivered to her house.

Libraries offer more services than just collections of books, CDs or DVDs. Many libraries also offer services and programs to help people enrich their lives.

Omar Elbita, a physician originally from Libya, says he loves libraries because they offer a quiet space to study. But more than that, they also provide a space for him to exchange languages with a friend. He teaches Arabic, while his friend helps him out with English. Elbita uses study rooms at his library because “you can study in groups and it offers privacy.”

When entrepreneur Michelle Lewis started her own business, she had little money. But she did have her public library card. Lewis attended a business-plan writing seminar offered by the Brooklyn Business Library and says nearly every important business contact she’s made has come through a primary contact at the library. Now the proud owner of a dog food manufacturing company, Lewis says “my Rolodex looks like a game of 6 degrees of separation—not from Kevin Bacon but from the Brooklyn Business Library.”