Each and every day at our library, lives are changed and amazing stories are told. Many of you have written to tell us just what the library means to you.
Below are stories from library champions like you, beginning with one from Ursula Le Guin’s son, Theo, about his memorable visits to Central Library with his mother.
"More vivid than my memories of being read to are my memories of going to the library. Our Saturday trips to Central Library were a big deal. When I was younger we would start out in the children’s section so I would have something to look at as I waited for her in the adult sections. Eventually I was old enough to be granted the reader’s version of long pants – unaccompanied and unfettered time alone in the children’s room. My mother placed no limit on the number of books I could check out (other than the natural limit of having to carry them on the bus) and no judgment whatsoever on of my choices. She always sealed the inherent pleasure of the outing with a grilled cheese and milkshake at Newberry’s after. That’s how you make a lifelong reader."
–Theo Downes-Le Guin
A Love Letter to the Public Library
On This Day, February 14, 2012, Valentine’s Day and Oregon’s Birthday
Dear Public Library,
When you call my house, disguising your fervor in a formal tone, “Hello. This is the Multnomah County Library. The items you have requested…,” I yearn to rush to the door, to run to you and your composure, to possess whatever you have waiting for me.
You are the only one always there for me. When others are unavailable, wrapped up in their own interests, talking about their own lives, you stay mute, receptive only to my desires, my dreams, my needs.
Public library, I trust you with my heart, mind, and soul. You safeguard my ignorances and protect my need to learn some of the most basic things in life. You never laugh at my ambitions though you must wonder about the potentiality of some of the dreams I share with you.
Library, I wish I could be as loyal to you as you are to me, but I admit I have forgotten to erase notes on the margins of your possessions, left some gifts un-opened, and even failed to return some to you when you requested.
Even so, I see the signs of your love for others, the smudges of chocolate on a page, the dog-eared corners. I know there are others, but your generosity is so vast. You open wide your doors and embrace those of us who love you, who use you. You let us in no matter what condition we’re in. Whether I’ve had cash in my pocket or only lint, you have always provided.
Thank you for your abundance and benevolence. Thank you for your constancy, for your reliability. Thank you for always being one step ahead, perceiving what queries I will have at each stage of my life. You are a beautiful creature, the core of my existence, the heart of my community.
Happy Valentine’s Day dear Public Library.
Your Secret Admirer
"The way that Multnomah County Library has changed my life is that the library has helped me obtain a Bachelor's Degree in business. I would have not been able to obtain my degree without having the library available to me. I was not able to afford a computer/laptop which was making it very difficult to finish school. I had to work full time jobs while attending school so you have to have a computer at your finger tips. Anyway I finally got my degree in June of 2008. I had been trying to go to school since 1994, so I could get better employment. "
"The St. John's library has helped me a lot with school. At my high school our library wasn't open after school so it was difficult to do my work after school much faster. So because of this I had to go to the library which gave me more search opportunities which got me extra points on my school projects."
"I tried to get my American citizenship although my age (I am 70 years old) and the accompanying forgetfulness were two big obstacles to overcome. I filed my N.400 form and the INS officer gave me a list of 100 questions that I had to prepare for the citizenship test. I was very worried and didn’t know how to answer some of these questions. At last, I came to the Holgate library to ask for help. After studying the recommended texts, I passed my test and became an American citizen on July 17th, 2003.
Now that I am an American, the library has become more important to me—because as an American, I have to speak and write correct English as well as have good knowledge of American culture—over and over the library satisfies my needs."
"My two young children and I spend time at the library, reading and searching for books on topics that interest us. I realized the true value of libraries in their lives when, among so many other activities they might choose, they will often ask to visit the library. And when we recently moved across town, we actively sought out our new community branch! Our library adventures started when they were young, at North Portland's branch. I'd pick up books for our night-time reading. As they got older and could make their own selections, the world of ideas, great pics and fun stories expanded. I can relate to their curiosity and interest in various topics. I'm thankful that our public library system offers a wonderful selection of great books and a supportive staff that makes great suggestions for our age group and favorite authors."
"My first library card (as a six or seven year old here in Multnomah County) was a pale yellow card, a bit bigger than today's credit card. It was made of a thick paper and contained a small piece of metal stamped with the number. I guarded it carefully for the worlds it allowed me to enter."
"I grew up in Hawaii and have fantastic memories of walking to Waipahu Library when I was 7. My mom and I lived right across the street from the library. Once we walked through the doors though, the world came alive to me. I sometimes went with my school, and I remember one story that the librarian read to us: an amazing Hawaiian legend about the Waipahu River where a shark god lived. I could see that river from our apartment, and forever after I got a chill when I walked over the bridge that crossed the river. I also remember checking out cassette tapes (it was 1978) of Rudyard Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and listening to the tape over and over again until the tape reel warped. That tiny library opened up beautiful doors to an awe-inspiring world."
"I grew up in Portland in the early 1970s, the youngest daughter in a large immigrant family. We weren't exactly wealthy--we didn't have the best house on the block, and we didn't have the best car. Our clothes were either homemade or had been handed down one too many times (for my taste, at least!). We didn't take exotic vacations every summer like so many of my friends. But we did have one saving grace, and that was our local public library.
Thank goodness for our weekly library trips! Every Thursday night (my father's only day off), we would pile into our car and drive to our local library. There, my siblings and I went through the place like locusts, checking out books to our hearts' content. Personally, I loved the art and craft books and managed to teach myself how to crochet and knit by the time I was 10. But that's not all I learned. I also learned to love reading and improved my reading level several grades. (Not bad for a child of immigrants!) I learned responsibility and the importance of returning my books on time. I learned that whatever questions I had or subjects I wanted to explore, the library was there with the answers and resources. Throughout the years, the library has helped me research colleges and scholarships, learn to cook, grow vegetables, fix leaky faucets, learn languages and so much more. The library is truly the gift that keeps on giving."