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A Librarian Changed My Life

A kind gift from a librarian more than 20 years ago changed Sarah Feldman’s life.

In 2001, Tropical Storm Allison hit Houston, Texas. More than 70,000 houses were flooded, including the home of 14-year-old avid reader Sarah Feldman and her family. Amongst the belongings destroyed by the floodwaters were all of Feldman’s book.

In a recent edition of Hidden Brain Media’s Unsung Heroes project, Feldman details the event: She was with her family on vacation in Connecticut at the time of the disaster, so they weren’t aware of the extent of the damage at home. Feldman's grandparents called with the news that all of her books had been destroyed in the flooding. Feldman was crushed.

Feldman's father took her to Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library to cheer her up after hearing the news. There, she struck up a conversation with a library worker named Bill Carver.

"I asked him a bunch of questions like, 'How do you keep all these rare books? What's the oldest book you have?'" Feldman remembers.

Carver answered all of her questions and, after learning of the flooding, said that he would send her a book to restart her collection. Feldman eventually received his gift in the mail: The Medieval Book by Barbara A. Shailor. He included a note that read:

“Dear Sarah, I have often thought of you and your family, and that terrible flood.... As promised, enclosed is a rather scholarly book, which may be slightly mature for your age, but I thought it might help you shape your new library collection. And as the years progress, this book may grow in stature and value to you. Have a happy holiday season. Wish you and loved ones all the best. Cordially, Bill Carver.”

Feldman is now in her 30s and says that Carver's gift made a lifelong impact.

"I'm obsessed with medieval art," she said. "My partner and I like to visit cathedrals in Europe and go to the Cloisters Museum in New York City from time to time."

Feldman has tried in recent years to find Carver to thank him for the small—but meaningful—gesture, but she’s had no success.

"I'm not sure if he's alive still, because he seemed old to me when I was 14 at the time,” she said. “But I just would love to tell Bill Carver that he changed my life."

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