Lee from Bellingham, Washington

Before I understood the larger social implications of the roles of libraries, I simply loved them for giving me access to books. I could take Pippi Longstocking home at 5 from the Anchorage Public Library. My library card from the Rayner's Lane branch was my first tangible connection to London as a foreign exchange student. I visited the new books section of my branch of the NYPL and then the Brooklyn public library every week; now I pour over the shelves in Bellingham.

Before all that, libraries put a roof over my head literally. My father was an architect, an electrician, and an entrepreneur despite the fact that his formal education ended before the 6th grade. He taught himself to design and build our house as well as automotive maintenance, electrical wiring and just about everything else he knew thanks in large part to libraries. While driven by his own initiative, public libraries provided him access to worlds that would otherwise have been closed to him.

My father's story serves as a testament to libraries as democratizing institutions. No only are they the frontline defenders of free speech, public libraries also maintain a commitment to equal access to all. By making available worlds that would otherwise be beyond the social and economic reach of mmay people, libraries strengthen the democratic project of an educated population.

Libraries are not only a community resource but a self directed educational institution that also allows people the opportunity to explore their own interests rather than being dictated by curriculum or speed or cost.

I have loved libraries since I was little because I care about books. However, libraries also make social transformation possible by building community and by giving everyone access to knowledge. By so doing, libraries give us the ability to improve not only ourselves but also the power to learn about and potentially change the world.