I think I first realized how much my library meant to me when I was nine, returning from my first-week-of-summer-vacation ritual – visiting my local library to check out the first of the season’s books. I sat blissfully in the back seat of my mother’s car, clutching my newly checked-out Nancy Drew and Boxcar Children books. I remember riffling through the pages absentmindedly to find my library card, checking the back pockets of the books, and then, with growing dread, reaching into the various pockets of my jeans only to come up empty handed each time.
I couldn’t find my library card. I shrieked. I demanded that my brother, a nervous, newly minted owner of a learner’s permit, swing the car around, my wailing that I had no clue where I could have left my card.
My mother chuckled from the passenger’s seat and told my brother to stay focused on the road. “My gosh, it’s like she lost her credit card!” she laughed.
The library card was found eventually, but I’ll never forget what my mother told me as we searched the floor of the car together: “You know, I didn’t have libraries like this growing up.” I was dumfounded. I knew my mother had grown up in a small town in a developing country, but I had never thought that something so critical to my early life had been entirely absent from hers. To me, living through a single summer, much less an entire childhood, without a library was unfathomable.
Unfortunately, the life I once found it impossible to imagine is reality for over 240 million people around the world who do not have access to books. I first learned this fact while reading through the description for an internship at Library For All on my school’s career website; as soon as I finished reading, I knew that I absolutely had to apply.
As enamored I was with Library For All then, I am doubly so now. Having met the team of dedicated, nearly superhuman individuals who put their sweat and tears into Library For All and seen how relentless they are in their pursuit of a better future, I can’t help but feel a sense of optimism that trumps any other that I’ve felt.
It’s the feeling that a few individuals can still make a change in this age, when it often feels like apathy reigns, and that the world is aware and compassionate enough to help to help us with our goal. Since I have joined the team, we have been checking on our kickstarter between periods of furious work to keep up our spirits up, and we haven’t been disappointed yet. We’re reaching out to 10 of our friends for this week to keep us going and to tell us that they’ve got our back by giving $10 to the kickstarter. We think that this is how the world will change, with children across the world flipping through the wealth of books on their tablets with as much voracity as I did the Boxcar Children, no freaking out over library card required.