Carolyn from Lafayette, Louisiana

, thinking of the libraries visited in my life.  Although I learned in each of them, the buildings and bookmobiles also intrigued me.  Books that I checked out took me around the world and into many different cultures.  Libraries changed my life.  They provided the pleasure of reading, a lifelong hobby, while I learned about the wider world.  Reading storybooks as a child, reference books as a youth, and medical journals as an adult, all supplied impressions and facts adding to my store of knowledge. 

Had my parents been educated to the level of PhD, they could not have passed on what I gained from the library. The library at Annunciation Grammar School in downtown New Orleans provided varied story reading.  Biographies, especially books about important women in history, opened my eyes to what my future could be.  Trips to the bookmobile during summer vacations added to a global awareness of people and places, especially through stories of life outside New Orleans.

Learning to do research in the beautiful old French Quarter public library, I walked a mile to the Washington Square area as a preteen.  Encyclopedias beckoned me to pull them from the shelf and read.  Painstakingly handwriting notes on lined index cards, I took home the information about science, history, geography and culture and completed school assignments.

In high school, I rode the public bus to the big new library in the crescent city downtown.  Sometimes lost for hours in the reference sections, searching for facts, I also frequented the fiction stacks nearly every visit.  Reading due to necessity never stopped me from reading for fun, increasing my knowledge base as I enjoyed it.

On the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, headed to and from St. Mary’s Dominican College for women, I studied towards a bachelor’s degree in science.  Between classes I sat in the college library, a lovely old avenue family dwelling.  I imagined living in this house with marble bathrooms and an upstairs sun porch.  As a working young adult, LSU’s and Tulane’s medical school libraries provided research information my boss required.  I scanned German articles, knowing only a few German words, and was proud when my name appeared in a research publication.

Marriage, children, and a transfer to Lafayette brought different library experiences.  The brand new Lafayette Public Library provided me easy parking and an airy and bright space to browse.  Display cases offered treasures for viewing, and talks on interesting topics stimulated my intellect.  During baby care days, the bookmobile stopped one stroller block away.  Later I drove downtown again for the kids to enjoy Story Time and start their own summer reading.

Children older and career resumed, I had access to a medical library once again.  In addition to job related information, I also pursued my interest in nutrition here.  Occasional family medical problems sent me to the reference rows.

Recently a branch library opened in a strip mall nearby.  Anything that I cannot find in that glass fronted facility, staff will order from the main branch or from another lending library.  I attended a meeting for the public in this library, and provided input for planning the coming branch library.

A tiny rural library in Sunset last year provided an exhibit of Clementine Hunter Louisiana primitive paintings.  I visited that small library, as happily as I visit the many libraries that I encounter in travels.  Whether an example of brilliant new architecture in Seattle, a presidential library in Arkansas, or the Library of Congress, it matters not to me.  There is something wonderful to see and learn in each.

The Internet is faster than a trip to the library, but I feel sadness for those who use it exclusively.  They will not experience the joy of lying across a stuffed armchair listening to the rain, a stack of library books on the floor, deciding which to read first.  They will not secretly meet a boyfriend in a specified section of the stacks.  They will not totally relax in fascination when they pick up a book in the library, intrigued by the title only, and later find that an hour passed.

I love the library.  It changes my life in ways that even I don’t understand yet.