A Tribute to Public Libraries

The idea of writing a piece about public libraries has not left me, since I read the children’s book, Tomás and the Library Lady

Yet, I don't know where to begin. Maybe I should start by writing about my childhood library experience. 

In a few words, I don’t have much to share about visiting the local library where I grew up in rural South Texas. The library had limited staffing, resources, and hours, and the borrowing policies were onerous. Summers were even worse: My siblings and I were farmworkers, and when we didn’t work, that was on Sundays, the library was closed. 

Perhaps that explains how much I have come to appreciate public libraries as an adult. Yes! As an adult! Public libraries are magical places, where children and grown-ups, can dream and imagine the impossible. They are spaces where entire families can get lost, not just in stories, but in places and times, and where the next story is only a book away.

 Public libraries are one of the last democractic institutions where everyone is welcome. Perhaps that’s what I have meant to write all long since I read this book and since this children’s story takes place in the pre-Civil Rights era. The books young Tomás read and the relationship he built with the librarian inspired him to dream beyond what his parents and grandfather could imagine. Tomás Rivera was one of the first Mexican American migrant workers to earn a Ph.D. and the first Chicano to be named Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside.  

I hope readers will get lost the way I have in the children’s books below. 

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