A bona fide bookworm, my love of reading began in early childhood. Even though I possessed my own mini-library at home, I was always looking for new stories to read. Thus, I eagerly anticipated our occasional visits to the local public library.

The Foxburg Free Library was (and still is) housed in the lower level of a two-story historic building (see photo). A rural library, it nevertheless offered an impressive variety of hardbound and paperback books of all sizes, colors and genres. I loved everything about that library, from the creaky hardwood floors and the antique light fixtures to the massive wooden check-out desk and, of course, the distinctive yet soothing smell of old books. Each visit was like catching up with a long-time friend.

Later, during my college years in Pittsburgh, I preferred the stately Carnegie Library over the more modern campus library. The preference was not based on the quality or volume of books contained therein, but rather the building itself. It was like walking back in time and being immersed in history. Each visit was an opportunity to explore not only the literature on the shelves, but also the architecture, fixtures and materials. Each room of the massive building held new insights and visual treasures; it was a place where I could learn and explore.

Did you know? Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh City Paper states that “[Andrew] Carnegie built 2,811 free libraries in all. Of these, 1,946 were located in the United States.” He also provides a fascinating backstory on how Carnegie’s elaborate libraries – supposedly built for the enjoyment of working-class citizens – initially became a financial hardship for most of those workers.

The Importance of Libraries

My love of reading – and knowledge in general – grew with every title I selected. Even in today’s digital age, I still love a library – and I’m not alone. Consider the following from the American Library Association (ALA) website:

Thus, there’s a recognized need for the information and services that public libraries provide. People are seeking the sense of community that libraries foster and are willing to invest in them, especially older libraries that have significant history attached to them.

For example, even though the distinction of being the oldest library in the United States is up for debate (read Sturgis Library’s thorough account), the Darby Free Library in Darby, Pennsylvania is touted as being “America’s oldest public library, in continuous service since 1743.” You can bet that the residents of that town will take efforts to keep their legacy intact.

Want to learn more about the history of libraries? History Magazine provides an in-depth account of libraries around the world. Looking for a public library in your area? Visit publiclibraries.com.

Your Library – Your Legacy

In a sense, Tweet: We are individual libraries filled to overflowing with experience and knowledge. Our minds are repositories full of wisdom and memories just waiting to be preserved, shared and utilized.

In addition, both life stories and physical libraries anchor knowledge in one central location, provide historical context and serve others. Life stories offer encouragement and hope, as well as advice and warnings, through the telling of our personal, firsthand experiences. In addition, they can provide access to the parts of ourselves too often stifled, such as our beliefs and our dreams.

Lest you think that no one would be interested in your story, let me assure you that the generations following behind us are just as hungry for our stories as we are for those who have gone before us. It’s the same reason that physical libraries are still going strong – there’s a sense of wonder, connection and comfort that people experience when they take the time to enter the doors (or read your book).

Thus, just as each physical library is worth visiting, each person’s life story is worth sharing. Allow your life story to be one of the many books in your family’s extended library.

How about you – what’s your favorite library?
Have you started to write your life story?

Please share in the comments!

Photo by www.foxburgwine.com