This is a very special evening and a very special award for me, partly because, like all of you, I love libraries and I believe in them and the work that they do. In giving my thanks today, I’d like to talk about the roles libraries have played in my life. I was born in 1977 and I tell you this so you can understand the culture of my generation. I am from the Reading Is Fundamental, One to Grow On, Captain OG Read More, Reading Rainbow Generation. I am a product of the after-school special and of School House Rock. Conjunction Junction? I know your function. I’m a member of the last generation to be pushed toward the library for hands-on learning via the encyclopedia, the reference desk, and the card catalog rather than pushed toward the internet.
I am originally from New York, and I grew up in a Brooklyn neighborhood known as Brownsville. I lived equidistant between two public libraries—one on Church Avenue and one on Mother Gaston Boulevard. Every Friday, my elementary school classmates and I walked together to the Church Avenue library to choose our weekend books for our book reports due Monday. I waited for every Friday to come so I could step into that space and roam and browse and lose myself and find myself once again. I waited for Friday so I could spin the racks that held the paperbacks, so I could find the books I wanted and bring back books for others. I was a short-order cook, taking requests, bringing back Agatha Christie mysteries for my great-aunt who could not make the long walk. Every Friday I always came back with more than I could carry. Just as it is for many of us, the library was my go-to place. It was the place where I was sent to “look it up.” The place I could hole up in on hot summer afternoons, using the cool space of the library to beat the summer heat. If I had a nickel for all of the libraries I’ve loved before, I’d be rich indeed.
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