Finding Home in a Public Library


I learned to read in a laundromat, sitting on yellow linoleum ledges surrounded by washed sheets and towels. While our clothes cleaned themselves, my mother would take me into the 100-acre woods, and over and over, we’d join Pooh and Piglet on their search for rainbow-colored berries. Then we’d go get more books from the library, and do it all over again a week later. When I was younger, going to the library was my treat. And the place that gave me access to thousands of books and movies, along with my first job in high school, it remained a sanctuary in my small New Jersey town even as I grew older.

The town you grew up in doesn’t always necessarily feel like home – I tell people wherever I go that growing up as a brown girl in a small, predominantly white town in New Jersey wasn’t the best. The pizza is sublime, there are bagels aplenty, but it’s not somewhere I grew up feeling a sense of belonging. So how can it be home?

Los Angeles has never felt that way to me. In the short ten months I’ve been here, I’ve never questioned whether or not I belonged. Beyond the endless sunshine and access to the best burritos and pupusas I’ve had, what makes LA home are the multitudes it manages to contain. There are so many pockets and communities from people of all backgrounds. Among others, there’s a Little Armenia, Little Tokyo, Little Britain, Little Guatemala, Little Ethiopia, Chinatown, Thai Town, Filipinotown. And the food and art the city has to offer reflects the multitudes it contains. Although my vegetarian diet prevents me from verifying this for myself, I’ve been told the Korean food in LA’s K-town is the best outside of Korea itself. Despite the fact that the Indian population in Los Angeles is relatively small — or maybe I just haven’t found it yet — I’ve never wondered whether or not I belong in this city, something I didn’t realize until I took a trip to the library.

The days leading up to my first visit in September, I was homesick not for my small town, but for a library. For books. For school, poetry, classrooms. September remained a month I associated with going back to school, even a year and a half after my college graduation. I was hungry, I was lonely, I was homesick. In my mind, the solution was getting a library card.

In the ride over to the LA Central Library, I triple-checked that I had my passport and two proofs of address. Getting my library card weirdly felt like applying for citizenship. My license and license plate both said “New Jersey” on them, but getting this card felt like making it official that I lived here now, that I was a permanent resident. No, a citizen.

I knew before moving out here that I wanted to make this a permanent home, a long-term commitment. But it took seven months for that to feel real: Walking into the Central Library’s doors, being welcomed by the familiar smell of old books and older walls, felt like home.

The LA Central Public Library library is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever been inside. It’s neither ornate nor sleek like the libraries I’ve seen on Buzzfeed round-ups of European literary grandeur.  But it smells just right, and there is a gorgeous rotunda that leads into the children’s section and YA stacks. That feels significant to me, to place these sections next to the most beautiful part of the building, to prioritize children’s literacy above old collections of eighteenth-century British poetry, or Shakespeare, or nonfiction. It feels unpretentious and welcoming.

Established in 1872, the LA Library has 73 locations. It holds over six million volumes and serves over 18 million people, meaning, according to Wikipedia, “it serves the largest population of any publicly funded library system in the United States.” A quick cursory glance at their website shows several classes that are available to all patrons free of charge — a Zumba class for the athletically inclined, a creative writing workshop for those looking to learn how to write, and a “citizenship class for new Americans.” There are multiple levels of Chinese classes, English and French conversation groups, classes that teach you how to sign up for the state healthcare options Medi-Cal and CalFresh. There’s a Coffee and Conversation Group every week that offers people experiencing homelessness support and teaches them coping skills. If you walk through the Central Library location, you’ll see signs posted through all seven floors that say the library welcomes everyone, explaining a bit about their expansive, inclusive selection and how they cater to people with various disabilities. This is a home for all of us.

These resources are far more expansive than what I’m used to. My library in New Jersey, which I adore, has just a singular location, is two stories big, and has a fairly modest collection. For a person who found so much solace in so little, seeing a library with so many more resources ready to cater to that many more patrons — of many more backgrounds — moved me. I’ve since visited the library a dozen times over and full disclosure: I’ve cried during ten of those visits, in awe of how wonderful this place is, how much it offers, and what it feels like.

It still shocks me that libraries are largely free. You get books for free. Sure some libraries have a fee you pay when applying for a library card — the LA Public Libraries do not, thus making the library more accessible. If you are late to return an item, you might have to pay a fee, but this is largely avoidable for most library systems; you can often renew materials multiple times, and do so online.

In my visits to the library, I’ve been trying to fill the void I feel in this post-grad life. I was fortunate enough to study Creative Writing and English in college, and my departments allowed me to study with brilliant and generous professors that encouraged my love for poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Here’s what I’ve been reading to try to replicate the sense of fulfillment I felt in the classroom, along with some old favorites for nostalgia’s sake. I invite you to visit your local library and grab some books too.

The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot, which I reread in its entirety without shame. Would highly recommend re-reading the books you read as a preteen if only for the nostalgia. Side effects include seeing too clearly why you are the way you are.

Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings and Cravings: Hungry For More, which serves as a reminder that I am no longer a college student and thus should stop eating like one.

Toxic Flora by Kimiko Hahn, which is a beautiful collection of poems, one of which is the inspiration behind my next tattoo. If you ever forget why you love words — or science, or storytelling — I’d recommend her poetry.

Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew. You may already be familiar with her work from Instagram, and her book manages to magnify the beauty and poignancy you may have already seen in her illustrations.

The Love Affair as a Work of Art by Dan Hofstadter. I’m still working through this one, which explores the lives of several great figures of nineteenth-century Paris, the role and function of the love letter, and more.

Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, which is a wonderful collection of poems that are emotionally-charged and bitingly accurate celebrations of death, desire, and language.


BY Virali Dave - November 7, 2018

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Marguerite Happe
November 7, 2018 11:37 am

This article is 99% awesome, but as a literature person, I chafe at the reinforcement of stereotypes like “eighteenth-century literature is pretentious and unapproachable” and “Who can read Shakespeare these days?” in favor of welcoming people in with kid-lit. Literature as an industry and a field suffers at the hands of those stereotypes. The more quickly we put up a wall between modern-day readers and the classics by telling them that they can only read modern prose and easy-to-understand fiction that they don’t have to work for, the more quickly capitalism grabs hold of the idea that those don’t matter… Read more »

November 8, 2018 5:30 am

I found this article really inspiring! I’m Spanish and I love reading Cervantes these days. I love ancient libraries but I think it would be much better if they were adapted to the needs of today. Simply by adding some modern laptops or making them a little bit more comfy.

November 8, 2018 11:36 am

Suplemento nutricional baseado na combinação de glucosmina e condroitina, o Osteo Bi-Flex vem sendo bastante utilizado na medicina alternativa como uma ajuda eficaz no tratamento da dor da osteoartrite.

November 9, 2018 3:16 pm

Really cool! Thanks for the suggestions

November 14, 2018 9:52 am

Thanks for your suggestions!

November 14, 2018 11:04 am

Nice tips!

November 15, 2018 10:20 pm

Thanks for the suggestions..

November 16, 2018 5:38 am

Very Cool!

November 16, 2018 6:20 am

this article is public utility

November 16, 2018 7:36 am

muito bom

November 16, 2018 8:18 am


November 16, 2018 8:54 am

Great Text! Congratulations!

November 16, 2018 9:43 am

Adorei ficou bacana!

June 19, 2019 3:13 pm

Do que se trata o DHEA (dehidroepiandrosterona) é um hormônio produzido pelas glândulas adrenais do nosso corpo. OS Suplementos de DHEA são produzidos a partir de soja ou inhame selvagem. Não é conhecido ainda o alcance máximo dos benefícios do DHEA pode trazer, mas já se sabe que é um precursor dos hormônios sexuais masculinos e femininos, incluindo testosterona e Estrogênio. Passando para a produção do DHEA no nosso corpo ela atinge seu pico aos 20 anos e começa a diminuir depois dos trinta. Essa diminuição é mais rápida nas mulheres do que nos homens. Os Níveis mais baixos de… Read more »

Se você tem algum tipo de problema, que afete as juntas ou articulações ou após um esforço físico mais elevado senti aquele incômodo nessa região das juntas, temos um importante aviso e conselho para lhe dar quanto a isso, na forma de um suplemento ou alimento suplementar que é totalmente desenvolvido usando ingredientes naturais pesquisados, dosados e testados de forma a ter maior atuação nas juntas ou articulações do corpo humano, falamos de Osteo Bi Flex que é uma promessa de ajudar a evitar sintomas de dores e melhorar a qualidade e saúde dos seus ossos em geral incluindo suas… Read more »

Doutores e médicos homeopáticos estão na conclusão que o Osteo Bi Flex juntamente com outros componentes funcionam inclusive na regeneração das células das articulações e melhora a saúde das juntas. Os produtos que compõem o uso de Vitamina D também tem um grande influencia em fortalecimento os ossos e auxiliam o sistema imunológico. A fórmula usado pelo Energy possui muita Vitamina B, por isso ela é chamada de “Energy”. Não parando por aí ainda existe também o produto do Osteo Bi Flex nutrajoint que é feito especificamente para ser bebido como um shake. Em sua fórmula contém gelatina, vitamina C,… Read more »

June 19, 2019 3:23 pm

Apesar de ter fama asiática, pode também ser encontrada na África e também na Europa. Muito usada como uma planta de teor medicinal, mas com o passar dos anos está se popularizando no mundo todo, como um suplemento natural que ajuda no aumento da hipertrofia muscular. Possível ser encontrado também em forma de forma de chá, cápsulas, extrato, comprimidos e suplemento. Mas avisamos logo que ele não se limita somente a auxiliar nos músculos, ela sempre foi utilizada para o tratamento de pessoas com disfunção erétil, aumento do líbido e equilíbrio dos hormônios.

June 19, 2019 3:25 pm

o 7- keto DHEA recebeu um estudo voltado para ele pelo
the Minnesota Applied Research Center( Centro de Pesquisa Aplicada de Minnesota) verificou que as propriedades da substância do 7- keto DHEA oferecem benefícios ao nosso sistema imunológico. Durante um periodo de quatro semanas, senhores e senhoras idosos/as consumiram 100 mg do 7- keto DHEA, duas vezes ao dia. Após um periodo o resultado apresentado foi a melhoria da função imunológica, crescimento das células auxiliares imunes, assim como o aumento dos glóbulos brancos e a diminuição da pressão arterial.

June 19, 2019 3:26 pm

A melatonina vem sendo usada como um suplemento para tratar de problemas de insônia, mais o que a grande maioria das pessoas não sabem é que ela promove ganhos em diversas áreas. a melatonina desempenha um grandioso papel no sistema imunológico e na saúde, regulando funções importantes como pressão sanguínea e os níveis de cortisol no corpo. Vários estudos com melatonina também mostraram sua capacidade de ajudar no emagrecimento dos usuários durante o sono já que as reações metabólicas vão sendo desempenhadas de forma mais eficiente quando o corpo se encontra em estado de descanso profundo.

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