The folks in this picture are two of the large swarm of people who were enjoying a great afternoon in the comfortable environs of the Watertown Public Library when my children and I arrived today. The children’s room was packed. A teen program was just starting. Folks were chatting in the hall and the cafe. Librarians were busy answering questions for patrons. The place was buzzing.
It has been all summer. In my family, we’ve been joking that we’re “keeping the library in business,” as we are there about every other day. We’d be there on Sundays (after church), if it were open. My daughter has cleared the shelves of every book about Greek mythology (the Percy Jackson series is her fav). My son has read the entire Goosebumps series (which is unavailable in Waltham, interestingly). I have been thankful for a place to sit and work, with wi-fi, when both home and office were sticky.
I found myself feeling so thankful this afternoon. I thought about the kids at the Harambee school in a Kenyan village, where I taught in the late 1980s. Their families had no books — maybe a Bible, if they were lucky — and there was no public library anywhere on the horizon. I thought about children in places where access to information is intentionally limited, for political or religious purposes. I thought about all the worlds that had been opened up to me through library visits — at the Wright Library in Oakwood, the Firestone Library at Princeton University, the State Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin, the United Library at Seabury-Western Seminary.
My college classmate, David Risher, is working with others on a project called Worldreader, to get e-readers into the hands of children in developing nations. Worldreader wants to help transform lives through access to information, creativity, and diverse perspectives.
Today is my birthday. I’m going to donate to Worldreader in thanksgiving for the blessing of libraries. Wish me a happy birthday by donating with me.