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My Love of Brussels Sprouts—and Other Reasons to Celebrate National Library Week

Brussels sprouts and books

Author and this year's honorary chair of National Library Week (NLW), Meg Medina, kicks off NLW 2024 by sharing what led her to become an advocate for and lover of libraries.

I was always suspicious of Brussels sprouts as a kid, especially when adults told me they were good for me. My mom wasn’t much of a vegetable chef, either, so it would be years before I tasted a well-cooked version and realized that “good for you” and “wonderful” could, in fact, be found in one and the same thing.

Meg Medina READ poster
Meg Medina

Which brings me to libraries. Today, I am a library enthusiast. As you might expect from a children’s book author, I spend a lot of time in a library-love bubble. But if I’m being honest, as a kid in Queens in the 1970s, my interactions were less than inspired. I visited the school library with my class weekly, during which we had story time or rundowns on the Dewey Decimal System. My visits to the public library were only a little better, mostly due to its proximity to a fast food hamburger joint across the street.

So how did that shift happen? How did the library keep me hooked and slowly become what I consider indispensable?

I like to think it’s because so many library leaders and workers embraced innovation.

As National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, I’ve traveled the country in recent months meeting librarians, kids, and families in the stacks, so to speak. It’s no surprise that the strongest programs are well-funded by their communities. The ones that truly shine seem to be the ones that constantly ask: What does our community need? Who can we partner with to make this happen? What does it mean to be literate and informed today? How can we help bring a wide range of people together?

These spaces boast a bustling feel, timely book displays, and comfortable seating. They offer everything from rooftop go-go parties to sewing machines in their makerspace. These are the libraries where kids can check out books, but also dolls, movies, games, and puzzles. These are the libraries that have decided that unbookish objects, like expensive gardening tools or percussion instruments, are also excellent things to have available for checkout. And the payoff is growing patrons who use the library often and in many ways.

These days, I use my library system for research, of course, but also for a quiet workspace—indoors or out. I use it for entertainment, by way of concerts and lectures, and as a place to learn new skills. I even use it for exercise, when it comes right down to it. A few times a month, I walk 30 minutes to pick up my holds or return them, giving my brain and body a nice workout while I help keep books by my favorite authors in circulation.

So, this week, do some soul searching. Who were you as a young library user, and who are you now? What can you do to strengthen your library system and return the care and attention they’re showing you? Here are some ideas if you come up short: Consider applying for a library card if yours has lapsed. Make a donation to become a friend of the library, if you’re able. Commit to attending an upcoming program with a friend. Add quick library visits to errand days with your kids. Who knows what you’ll discover together?

Maybe that libraries grow all of us strong.

Ready, set, library!

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