Monday, September 13, 2010

Fight for Libraries As You Do Freedom

Karen Slaughter wrote a moving piece for an Atlanta news site. In it, she explains why libraries have been so important in her own life and how it relates to her father's background.

My father and his eight siblings grew up in the kind of poverty that America doesn’t like to talk about unless something like Katrina happens, and then the conversation only lasts as long as the news cycle. His family squatted in shacks. The children scavenged the forest for food. They put cardboard over empty windowpanes so the cold wouldn’t kill them.

Books did not exist here. When your kids are starving, you can’t point with pride to a book you’ve just spent six hours reading. Picking cotton, sewing flour bags into clothes — those were the skills my father grew up appreciating.

And yet, when he noticed that I, his youngest daughter, showed an interest in reading, he took me to our local Jonesboro library and told me that I could read any book in the building so long as I promised to talk to him about it if I read something I didn’t understand. I think this is the greatest gift my father ever gave me. Though he was not a reader himself, he understood that reading is not just an escape. It is access to a better way of life.

I found that part quite touching. I want to be a part of stories like that, and by working as a library tech I can be. I grew up with all the books I wanted; I never even had to use a library. When my brother and sister and I went with our mother on a long shopping trip as kids our treat at the end of the day was picking a new book out. She'd just buy it for us, and that's how easy it was.

I know that not everyone is so privileged. I lucked out. I really did, and the thought that someone could be denied books and reading because of the issue of money makes me sad. Even with the educational and self-improvement aspects of the library aside, I would hate for anyone to be denied the pleasure of reading.

PS: Hello to anyone from class!


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