Anna from Des Plaines, Illinois

Speaking English is so important. There is a library not far from my home, and they have English classes there. I decided to participate, because not knowing the language has been a source of so many misunderstandings. I was simply afraid of social contacts. Even going to that library, asking about their classes, and taking the test was a problem: my heart pounded, my knees were shaky. Then the classes started.

Even back in Poland, I loved reading books. I liked novels and short stories but bestsellers really fascinated me. I would browse a few pages, and would immediately know if I wanted that book. It's been the same here. My teacher went with me to help me sign up and get the library card. What a joy – being able to borrow books I was really interested in. Initially these were ESL textbooks, some books published in English and Polish, then movies, and some self help books. I was able to combine improving my English with the pleasure of reading interesting novels. I was quickly gaining self-confidence.

I started taking my daughter with me to the library. Dominika would sit in her stroller, playing or browsing through children's books while I would read magazines. We would spend long hours there. I love watching people coming there: kids loudly exchanging opinions, adults, peaceful retirees. They walk among bookshelves, or immerse themselves in their reading while sitting in comfortable armchairs.

The library has a strange power over me. When I reach for a historic book, I travel back in time. I learn about things as they were centuries ago: how a king ruled and who he was, and about regular people living under him. I also love books about inventions and discoveries.

When I decided to remodel my home and the basement, library was the first place I visited. I found a lot of excellent books: how to create a cozy child's room, what color to use for the living room, what furniture would make it comfortable and functional. I found many great tips on how to renovate old furniture, and how to use ceramic tile leftovers. Thanks to the advice from books I found in my library, I have my dream garden now, with new trees and flowers.

I use what I learned to help my family and friends in designing their living spaces. I bring many books home, I go over them with my husband, and we always find something fascinating.    Very often I sit at the computer and go to my library Web site, I looking for new items. Even if a particular book or film is not immediately available, I can order it, and a few days later I get an e-mail saying it is ready for my pick-up. This is great, especially when I have so little time. The librarian prepares the books for me, and all I need to do is to come over and pick them up.

Through the library, I opened myself to the world. I am no longer the same shy person, afraid to talk to people. I like conversations with strangers in my library. If I really love a book, I buy and recommend it to others. I read to my child and my husband at home. My husband has gotten to like such evenings a lot. I spread the "reading bug" among my friends. I remember talking about one particular novel to a friend of mine. Then I bought it and gave it to her as a gift. Later we would call each other at night and talk about the plot, and the characters.

The library opened my eyes to many paths of life.  This is a place like nowhere else. Nobody seems to hurry. They find time for their passions.

I wish I could meet the person who invented libraries. I would thank that person so much! Who would guess that the library would help me find myself in my new country, to become a new person, bolder and more knowledgeable. I want the library to remain my great guide through life, the place where I can lose myself in reading, and to find myself through it.