Throughout the month of September, we invited authors and library lovers to share a cherished library moment or tell us what they value most about their library using the hashtag #HowILibrary. Thank you to everyone who participated. There have been some wonderful responses: Mo Willems, Lily Williams, Kelly Yang, and Meg Medina, to name a few.
How do you library?
Because it's Library Card Sign-up Month, I wanted to share a little story about my experience with libraries.
Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money, which meant my siblings and I didn't grow up with toys or books of our own. I have very clear memories of school book fairs and wishing I could afford to order a book and have it delivered to the classroom for me to take home.
So when I discovered the public library, I was stunned. I couldn't believe I could take home any book I wanted—more than one—and for free! Sure, I had to return them, but I could check out other books or even the same one if it remained available. It felt like such a gift. And, oh my gosh, did I accept that gift with both hands!
My sister and I were at the library constantly. So much that the librarians knew us and noticed how many books we consistently borrowed.
Well, one day, I rode my bike to the library (I was probably around 10 or 11), and I wanted to check out a couple of books. Unfortunately, I had maxed out my loan limit on my card. But the librarian offered to let me check the books out on her card. I couldn't believe she would trust me—a little kid—to use her card! Anyway, I was overjoyed and promised to bring the books back on time.
Then I placed the books in a plastic grocery bag (I don't know why I didn't bring a backpack) and looped it on a handlebar so I could hold it while I pedaled. But the bag began to swing with the motion. I tried to keep the bike steady, but about halfway home, it swung into the spokes of my wheel!
I fell, scraping my chin. I had the biggest, most embarrassing scab on my chin for weeks. But the worst part was that when the bag got caught in my wheel, it shredded the corner of the books.
I was absolutely mortified. The librarian had trusted me with her library card, and I just destroyed a book. Now she'll never trust me again. What if she never lets other kids borrow her card because of me? OMG, how am I going to pay for this book?!
I was bleeding and panicked. I went home and stalled for a bit, but the due date came around, and I returned to the library, shame-faced and scabby-chinned. I told the librarian the story, slid the ruined book across the counter to her, and waited to be stripped of my library privileges.
Now, if you're a library card holder or have interacted with a librarian, you already know where this story is headed. She didn't take away my library card. She didn't make me pay for the book. She didn't dole out a punishment or make me feel bad.
I think instead of the damage, the librarian saw a little girl who loved books and just wanted to nurture that because she loved books too. So what she did was keep me coming back to the library. I continued borrowing books. I continued reading. And my love for books grew.
Jenna was a voracious reader as a child but found there were never enough books to read. Moreover, there were no books featuring protagonists who looked like her.
Now, Jenna continues to read as much as she can and finds there is never enough time to get ahead of her TBR pile. She is overjoyed to see so much more diversity (including Asian-American protagonists) in children's books than she could have imagined as a young reader!