By Paulette Meza
Both of my parents are immigrants to this country. Working-class but educated and well-aware of the importance of literacy, my parents sought out resources to help give their children more opportunities.
My father worked all day and left our upbringing to my mother. Of all the activities, places and distractions she could have chosen for us, it was the public library that she favored most. Having a limited budget, she made our local library trips one of my most treasured childhood memories.
I longed to enter the cool, brick building, built like a castle in the middle of a suburban city, to breathe in the scent of books, both old and new. It was within that public library that I fed my hunger for literature.
When my father made the decision to move to Victorville, CA in the abundantly sunny High Desert, it was the library that I missed most of all. I remember the joy I felt when I learned that there was a local public library near our new home. How disappointed I was when I discovered it sat in a repurposed strip mall, its collection no more than ten stacks.
Later, it was moved to the new City Hall, and its old location became a real-estate office. Even so, it held invaluable resources. Just as I had spent my favorite childhood days discovering new worlds from a far off kingdom full of magic and fell creatures, to exploring the depths of our oceans and the creatures held within, so I found myself in this new library. Except now, the internet became an unending source.
It was a time when my parents could not afford to buy us a computer with which to finish our assignments, or the books required by our school because they simply did not have enough copies. So, the library once again had become this bottomless well of resources. Then, as I began to apply to jobs, I returned again and again to figure out how to create a perfect resume. I went there to apply to college and to learn about financial aid.
Throughout these countless visits to different branches, there was always a librarian on reference, ready to answer any question I could possibly have, and countless clerks, waiting for me to check out my next adventure. I never received a short or curt response. No matter how many questions I asked, I was always given a satisfying answer. As a child, I remember thinking of these librarians as real life wizards, who held much more knowledge than I could ever hope to gather.
I have come to understand much more of the importance of public libraries. Besides providing books, CDs, DVDs, comics, graphic novels, computer access, adult literacy programs, computer literacy programs, after-school programs, storytime for children, book sales, hot meal programs during schools’ off-seasons, knowledgeable and reliable staff, art access, and more, more, more for all, but most especially low-income members of our communities.
In Los Angeles, we have the opportunity to see all of the problems faced by people all over the country in one place. But in the midst of these issues, we find the public library system: they provide a place where those who are homeless can find the resources to help them along their path. They patiently allow all who come to learn, work, and grow to enter unbothered, ready to help.