Paula from Ashburn, Virginia

A couple summers back, I wondered how I’d make it through the next two and a half months. At the time my children were ages four, six and seven, and not the types to willingly attend summer camp. In truth we didn’t have the money for camps anyway. I wanted the children to enjoy their time off, but as I looked around the neighborhood for potential playmates, I realized my kids were the only ones not involved in some type of structured activity. A silence had descended on the neighborhood that alerted me to the fact that no one was around. I berated myself for not making more plans, and I confess I felt a sense of doom about summer.

My mother once told me there would be times in my life when I would have to "dig deep within" to find answers, and this was one of those times. Fortunately, during the last week of school, one of the kids came home with a flier about the library’s summer reading program. While my daughter was an avid reader, my sons were just at the precipice of discovering the joys of reading. To their dismay, I told the boys they had to join their sister in participating in the program. When we walked through the doors of the library that quiet Friday afternoon, I couldn’t know then how much that one visit would change our lives.

After the children were registered, given bookmarks and small prizes for joining the program, I guided them through the children’s section so they could browse. We sat on some large pillows and read books together. After that I showed them the computers, and while they played games, I sat down to read the library’s brochure of summer events. Looking at the various programs offered, I could feel my fears of summer boredom calming. In fact, I was amazed. Suddenly I had a multitude of options spread before me – things I knew my kids would enjoy doing – and they were all free!

A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders that afternoon. Sure, we belonged to a swimming pool, and we were regular visitors of the local parks and playgrounds. Still, with no other children around, some days would stretch long, made longer by sibling fights and whining.

The library became our refuge and summer sanctuary. There were afternoon movies, puppet shows, origami, theater productions, concerts, craft activities, scientific presentations and more. The children grew to love the library, and appreciate it as being much more than just a place to check out books. They realized that neat things happen at the library!

One of our best memories is the library’s used book sale. For very little money we could stock up on books, CDs and videos of all kinds. It was thrilling to know we could afford to purchase these wonderful things. We also enjoyed contributing to the sale from our own collection of movies and books.

The children and I have developed a connection to our library that goes beyond merely books. This connection is about learning, having fun, expanding our horizons and feeling a part of our community. When I tell the kids we’re going to the library, the boys no longer cry and moan, because they see the library as an active and vibrant place, full of new opportunities to have fun. Frequently, my now preteen daughter and I will go to the library to enjoy time alone together. We read magazines, check out upcoming events and quietly share our thoughts.

I cherish this time with her, because I know it won’t be long before she would rather go with her friends than me. The library has strengthened our bond, and given us a place of peace where we can find sanctuary from our troubles. If I had been able to send the kids off to camp years back, we may have missed the opportunity to connect with the library and enjoy it as we do now. The neighborhood still clears out in the summer time, but that’s not the concern it once was. The library beckons, with movies, books, fun activities, quiet moments – and more memories to be made.