By Adria Nassim
April 23–29 is National Library Week, but for me it’s always library week! Libraries have always been important to me since I was very young, offering an escape from society, serving as a diverse social hub, providing a low sensory environment, and fostering a sense of belonging.
My favorite place in the entire city is the library. I tell my friends, if the weatherman forecasts an apocalypse and I’m not home, check the library! My love of libraries and books started very young. My parents read to my sister and me every night from the time we were babies until I was 13 and she was 11. We would go to story hour at the local public library multiple times a week with the babysitter and her two children, and we had our very own library cards by the time we were probably three and five years old. Every summer, we would also participate in the summer reading program held at the library.
If I did really well on something or had been working toward a goal for a long time and finally reached it, my parents would often reward me with a trip to the local bookstore. Bookstores and libraries were my happy place. I would wander the library aisles for hours just browsing, but sometimes I would choose a few titles, take them home to read over the course of a week or two, and come back for more.
Passport to Another World
As I grew older, reading books and going to the wonderful fortress of knowledge that enshrined them—the library—became much more to me than a source of entertainment. The library became an escape from the complexities of the social world. I didn’t understand how to interact with my peers, and it was often difficult and stressful. But when I opened a book or went to the library, I could forget all of that. I could go to some different magical world or be part of some different character’s life and forget about school.
My love of libraries has stayed with me into adulthood. I visit the local library several times a week with Mr. T., and all the reference librarians know us.
You may think of libraries as a place full of books, but there’s a lot more to the story. Today’s libraries have become so much more than just a place to study or check out books. Libraries function as community hubs and social outlets for people and families from diverse backgrounds, including individuals with disabilities who often experience higher rates of social isolation. Our local library has hosted board game nights, a Mario Kart tournament, an after-hours Nerf battle, and even a hot sauce eating competition in addition to several regular book clubs.
Adventures Beyond Reading Books
I also really like going to libraries because I find that people who value intellectual conversation, academia, and research tend to use the library. Through the years, I have met several friends and acquaintances just by being a regular visitor. Libraries can also be a good source of employment for some individuals with disabilities.
I am always comfortable and happy whatever I’m doing at the library. I really like the quiet environment with low stimulation. It is very important for teens and young adults to find a place where they feel comfortable and accepted and feel like they belong. It may not be a library, and it may take a while and some experimentation to find the right fit. Wherever it is, it’s important that your young person feel valued, comfortable, and accepted.
Thank you to all those involved keeping our libraries around the state stocked and running! Happy National Library Week, all!