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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Value of a Library Card

Today's PlainTalk post features a guest writer: Veronica Schwartz, Head of Youth Services at DPPL. While preparing for "Library Card Sign-Up Month," I asked members of the library staff to share their feelings on the value of a library card. Veronica's essay captures, with warmth and enthusiasm, the life-changing experience of getting that first library card. The picture on the left is Veronica, her dad and her sister, under a stained glass panel you'll learn more about when you read her posting. Thanks, Veronica, for being PlainTalk's "guest star" today, and for all the work you do year 'round for the kids of Des Plaines and their families.

Last weekend I found a summer reading club certificate. My summer reading club certificate. From 1982. It had Pac-Man on it. For an extremely shy, introverted girl growing up in the small, semi-rural town of Adrian, Michigan, the public library housed in an old JCPenney’s building was my refuge. From a very young age, my parents frequently took my sister and me on visits to the library. And as soon as we were able to have them, our parents got us our own library cards.

The children’s department on the second floor became a second “home” for me. During the summer I loved seeing my name written on a big easel pad with a gold star next to it for every book I read. I scoured the new books shelf and carried armloads of books down the stairs during each visit. The librarians knew my name and took the time to talk to me about the books I read. The staff made me feel welcome, comfortable, important. At the library, I mattered.

Just months before graduating from college I was searching for direction for my life. Then, I remembered the staff at the public library and I knew that I wanted to become a librarian, a children’s librarian. I wanted every child who came into the library feel as important and respected as I was made to feel. So, in 1996 at the age of 23, I became a librarian.

In 1999 I was able to give a little back to the Adrian Public Library. They were looking for donors to fund a beautiful wall of stained glass “windows” featuring various children’s stories and characters. I had the privilege of funding The Ugly Duckling in memory of my mom, an avid reader and lover of the library.

To my mom and in particular to Mrs. Ehnis, Mr. Schact and Mrs. Berdyk, I say thank you for that small, paper library card that sent me down the path that led me to where I am today.

Share your feelings about the value of libraries and library cards - add your comments here.


  1. What a touching story! I, too, got a library card at a young age. I come from a family of six and my Dad was in charge of taking "the big kids" to the Bookmobile every Saturday. It was our family ritual for years. We had to get our Saturday chores done and then we could go to the Bookmobile - which was about a 7 block walk. My Dad would pick out his batch of books and the 3 of us "big kids" would pick out ours. Then we got our 10 cents allowance (which we promptly spent at the penny candy store conveniently located two doors down from where the Boookmobile was parked.) We would leisurely walk home - often stopping to play at the park on the way - and then spend the rest of the afternoon reading our books. That ritual planted the seed of reading in me and the rest of my family. We are all still avid readers and, of course, regular library goers!

  2. I wonder how many of us were brought to the library by Dad so that Mom could tend to little ones or, in my case, get all four of us kids out of Mom's hair for awhile. The library in the town where we lived had the dubious distinction of sharing its quarters with the police station - an environment I found both scary and fascinating. When I was about 10 years old, they built a spacious new library and it became a favorite hang-out, being just down the street from my school. In fact, I had the best of all worlds, since I passed the neighboring town's library on my walk home and we had a decent-sized library at school, too - a library at every turn! I loved the quiet, I loved the seemingly endless rows of books. One thing that made an extremely positive impression on me at that first library was that the workers there were kind to me, even though I was just a kid, and they were also thoughtful and nice to my disabled sister, something that was often missing in our experiences in other public places.

    I can still remember my favorite book at the Hillside Public Library, it was a pink hardcover copy of a Finnish children's book called Comet in Moominland. I bought all the Moomin books when I got old enough to have a little money of my own, and still treasure them.

    Those libraries of my youth obviously did their job well, since I now spend 5+ days a week working at DPPL, and have spent more than 18 years in the library profession!

  3. As a single mom, I remember taking my kids, especially my daughter to our library in the suburbs. She loved to go to the craft rograms and even though it wasn't our home library, we always felt welcome there. That's how it should be.


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