Libraries are the pillars of their communities

I’m a big fan of public libraries. (In fact, as I write this, I’m wearing a T-shirt that reads “What’s more punk than the public library?”) I’m a regular customer of the branch from my neighborhood DC public library – the kids and I go there at least once a week, and we read so many books that they literally spill out of the stroller on the way home. Previously, when I lived in New York, I had two library cards – one for the New York Public Library and one for the Brooklyn Public Library – and I often had books checked out on both accounts. I even visit libraries on vacation: no trip to my in-laws in New Mexico is complete without a stop at the Albuquerque and Bernalillo County Public Library, and as a child, every summer I got a free pass. -pass for the Pentwater Township Library. .

But the library of my heart has always been the Galesburg Public Library. I still remember the excitement of receiving my very first library card on my 5th birthday and how proud I was to use it. I couldn’t believe the library was a real place – so many books, all in one place, that I could take home! I skimmed through the picture books, then the mid-level novels (“Wait Till Helen Comes,” one of the first novels I remember pulling out of the library, taking up permanent residence in my brain), then at YA and adult novels. The best part about the library was that I could explore all kinds of different things – books of all genres, non-fiction, fashion, travel and science magazines – and I could always find exactly what I was looking for. , even if I didn’t. know I was looking for it.

As an adult, I had the honor of returning to the Galesburg Public Library to celebrate the release of my novels. Walking into the room where I remember watching The Flight of the Navigator on summer movie nights and buying stacks of books at the Friends of the Library book sale was more than just a promotional opportunity for me – it was going home. The library was where I grew up as a reader, where I consulted the books that inspired me to become a writer. I can say with confidence and without exaggeration that I would not have the career I have today – with novels published by a major publisher and translated into several languages, one of which was adapted by the team by Reese Witherspoon in a TV show starring Octavia Spencer as she prepares to enter her third season – without the Galesburg Public Library.

And that’s why I’m so proud to be part of the fundraising effort for the new Galesburg Public Library. A library is more than the books on its shelves, and while I’m glad a new library means room for more books (hey, I’m planning on writing some more, and they’ll need lots of shelf space!), I’m also excited about the plans for the computer center, study rooms, teen zone, children’s reading zone, etc.

Of all the new features, though, I’m perhaps the most excited about the Community Room. The more time I spent in public libraries, the more I realized that libraries are not just for the individual pursuit of reading – they are the backbone of communities. Libraries are places where people can gather, where community members can access resources and expand their world. The current Community Hall is used more than 500 times a year for library and community programming, such as guest speakers and artists, meetings for non-profit groups and educational centers, events for organizations communities, cultural celebrations open to the public and tutorials. by community educators — but there is insufficient space for such use. The new community room, on the other hand, will be much larger and include features such as a kitchenette, projector and screen, improved sound system and assistive listening system – and it will be accessible after hours. of the library, which will facilitate the use of the community. room as needed. I can’t wait to see how the space is used.

I may not live in Galesburg anymore, but the library and the whole community hold pieces of my heart. I will donate to the project, and I encourage anyone who has ever checked out a book – or even just thought of doing so – to do the same. We’ll soon be offering all Galesburg alumni a way to get involved in the project – and specifically in the Community Hall – so watch soon for more information! Let’s help another generation discover the magic of the library. For questions or information, please contact Heather Sipes, Executive Director of the Library Foundation, at heather.sipes@thegplf.org.

Kathleen Barber is from Galesburg High School’s Class of 2000 and author of “Truth Be Told” and “Follow Me.”

James C. Tibbs