As a young person, I visited the local library often. I remember the card catalog, the small sheets of paper, and those three-inch pencils that were provided, so I could write down the Dewey Decimal number before I headed off into the rows of books. As I got older, I’d go to the library to study and hang out with friends. As an adult, I have used the library to research things, from craft ideas to travel plans.
When I had a daughter, I continued the tradition of using the local library. We would visit every couple of weeks, so she could check out books—some picture books she could “read” herself and others that I would read to her. She was a fan and spent lots of time there during high school and college.
Prior to the pandemic, I took my five-year-old grandson to the library every week. Often, we would run into my daughter, who was studying for a career-related exam. The staff was very welcoming to my grandson—he settled right down and was delighted when they asked him to sign his own library card. He couldn’t write at the time, but that did not stop the process when he proudly placed his “X.” He soon became an expert at checking out his weekly picks!
I miss those weekly outings of ours. It was our time together. He played with the puzzles and the blocks and always checked out a book or two for his mom or sister to read to him. We are looking forward to resuming our time there.
Today, as Treasurer of the ABQ Public Library Foundation, I am still a fan. Most of what I read comes from my local library. Things look a little different—I can find my books from home, and they download instantly to my Kindle. My husband and I travel in our RV, and we always borrow an audiobook or two for the trip.
Libraries have enhanced my life, and I never want that to change. That is why I give.
I’ll answer the question in two ways: First, for the importance of libraries to me personally. They’ve been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember, starting in early childhood, with weekly trips to bring books back from the local branch library, then in my teenage years, when I had summer jobs working for the San Francisco public library system, to working on the reference desk of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill library, and the Environmental Protection Agency library in the Research Triangle, while in library school there.
Then onto a career based in the University of New Mexico Library and finally, to spending weeks and months doing my own research in libraries and archives in Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, and the US West and Southwest. Libraries have been the springboard to my professional accomplishments.
The second reason, though, and the more important, is their universality. The public library is there for everyone; it’s a boundless world of knowledge, discovery, and possibilities open to all, free of charge.
We frequently hear that libraries, and the free flow of information they provide, are pivotal to our democracy. It’s a truth that can’t be stressed enough—now more than ever. Libraries, with everything they contain, also inspire us to bigger and greater things.
Nearly a half century ago, one of America’s great writers, Ralph Ellison, made a reference to libraries that has lodged in my mind all these years: “The library,” he said, “is a nexus of dreams, a place where we are able to free ourselves from the limitations of today by becoming acquainted with what went on in the past and thus project ourselves into the future.” How true Ellison’s words were and how true they remain.
But in a more tangible, down to earth way, libraries across this country are essential to millions of people, year in and year out, in numerous practical ways.
In short, their contribution in sustaining and enhancing the quality of civic life is multidimensional and enduring. It’s for these reasons and others like them that I take great pleasure in supporting our libraries.
In the early 1950s, the world was full of young children entering school for the first time. Classes were bursting at the seams with 40-45 students in each classroom. Children of varying abilities were lumped together and expected to behave and learn. Teachers were overwhelmed by large class sizes and unable to give individual attention to any student needing extra help. A struggling student had to fend for herself or be left behind bewildered and confused. It was up to the student and her parents to find productive ways to improve a child’s scholarship.
The key to success was wrapped in the ability to be an excellent reader. Our resilient and wise parents turned to the library as a source of help and guidance.
As children we grew up with party line telephones and very few TV stations to watch during the day. A big weekend consisted of playing outside with friends or being inside reading a new book. The trip to the public library became a weekly ritual to anticipate and enjoy.
Walking to the neighborhood library was a great adventure into a different world full of mystery, wonder, and knowledge. We wandered freely throughout the large buildings filled with books from the floor to the ceiling. We loved the independence of roaming the stacks and discovering a new jewel to read. If truth be told, we also enjoyed the cool air conditioning which saved us from the oppressive humidity and heat of a summer afternoon in Memphis.
We hung out with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys driving the backroads of New Jersey, solving mysteries along the way. We learned about national heroes and citizenship by reading individual biographies of historical leaders who created our democracy.
As we turned through the pages of National Geographic and Life Magazine, we discovered the world was much more exotic, larger, and complicated than our own hometowns.
Read a parenting article about raising a resilient child, and you’ll inevitably be told to give children memories on which they can look back in times of stress.
2020 was a time of stress for all of us, and I, too, found myself turning back to memories of my childhood. Growing up with a mother and grandmother who were librarians, libraries have always been a part of my life. And so, many of those memories revolved around a library.
I remember being two and going to storytime at the library in Redondo Beach, California. I remember a green lawn on a hill, the view of the sunlit ocean shimmering in the distance, the warmth of the sun and my mom’s arms, and the stories.
I remember my award-winning elementary school library where I, a shy, introverted, quiet kid, would go during recess (and before school and after school), tuck myself into a corner, and get lost in history, or fantasy, or an experience or place different than my own. That library was always busy, always welcoming, always fun. And it always, always welcomed (celebrated!) reading and imagination.
When my father passed away, that library was a place of refuge, but more than that, the library, the librarian, and all the volunteers gathered around us and took us in. They helped us turn tragedy into good in the world when, together, we built the first technology center in a school in New Mexico because the librarian knew that learning was not going to remain a domain for only physical books for much longer.
In middle school and high school, my work-study classes were in the library. It was the moment of my day when I could recharge, find some peace, and, more often than not, get lost in a book that I was actually supposed to be shelving.
I worked at libraries in college. In fact, one of the chief reasons I wanted to go to the University of Washington was for its libraries. (Not in the least because of the Harry Potter-esque, Gothic Suzzallo Library Reading Room.) When I was feeling lonely and homesick, I went to the libraries because they felt like home and because I could get lost in the shelves and shelves and shelves of books.
More than that, libraries and books are such an enormous part of why I’m a writer today. They are why I’ve been able to hold on to my imagination and a sense of whimsy, curiosity, openness, and a life-long love of exploration that so many seem to lose as they grow out of childhood. These ideas, the love of learning and discovering through reading, are what I am making sure to pass on to my children.
Libraries are about learning, about going beyond yourself, and learning to go beyond yourself. They’re about empathy and understanding and seeing the world in a different way than the one you’ve always known. They preserve the past while uplifting the future. They care about the communities they’re in, and they—and their staff—lift those communities in ways most people don’t understand and will never see.
They are safe. They are welcoming. They are home.
Libraries are vital in so many, many ways, and that’s why I give.
Having always lived in Albuquerque, I have found library resources integral to every stage of my education. It started in my little elementary school library, which provided my earliest access to a library long before the San Pedro Library came into my childhood neighborhood.
High school similarly included a library on the campus. Learning to drive at age 15 expanded my access to our city’s libraries—the Ernie Pyle Library was just a short drive from home and a cozy entre to Albuquerque’s library system. The jewel in the crown was old Main, now Special Collections, with its stacks and rather noisy metal platforms.
Starting college at UNM opened a new world of libraries: Fine Arts, Business School, Law School, Medical School, and the jewel in the crown, Zimmerman Library, with its beautiful study room with the long tables and beautiful lamps. Of course, the stacks were amazing, populated as they were by thousands of books and many carrels.
During my time in graduate school, I was privileged to have a carrel where I could work in a quiet space and keep the books I was working with close at hand. Though somewhat dusty, my carrel in the stacks of Zimmerman Library was bright and comfortable. During graduate school, I found it useful to take advantage of some of the other libraries on the campus, usually the Medical School Library, then located in the former Coca-Cola bottling plant, and the Law School Library. Upon completing a master’s degree and starting law school, I was able to get a carrel in the Law School Library, overlooking the golf course at UNM’s North Campus.
Through all of these wonderful libraries, whether at UNM or the City of Albuquerque, the most consistent characteristic was the warmth and amazing breadth of the librarians’ knowledge. Of course, our wonderful librarians were and are always ready and willing to help with obscure and not so obscure research issues. Just today, the librarian for the New Mexico Supreme Court was able to find an item from 1990 that is not widely available; she found the paper item and sent it to us within an hour.
Libraries are not only utilitarian. I derive pleasure in frequenting our wonderful library system. As important as personal use of our libraries may be, the societal good which our libraries provide moves me to contribute.
Ever since the day my mother took my sister and me on the bus to the Main Public Library in Galveston, Texas I have had a love affair with libraries. As a six-year-old I was smitten with the idea that all I had to be able to do was print my name and the world of book borrowing was mine.
While my public library usage was not always available during my growing up years, I always had access to the school library. Growing up, it was a consistent part of my life to have a book on my bedside table for the end of the day or to be with me on a rainy afternoon. Those times I was entranced by the lives of the March girls, and my other fictional friends.
As a young mother, taking my two boys to our local public library and pulling them home in our wagon loaded with them and with their laps full of books was part of our regular routine. When our daughter arrived, she joined the weekly library trek.
Why were these library trips so important? They were places filled with adventures, answers, personal growth, entertainment and compassionate librarians. I never could get over the idea of a “free public library”. It was a symbol to me of one of the best things about our community and there was a library branch near us wherever we lived. It was a place open to all - those who came on foot, a bus or in a car. My passion for libraries and what they offered to all grew along with my children.
When they were teenagers, I was a member of Leadership Albuquerque, and I received a notice from the City that the Library Advisory Board was looking for a representative from my quadrant of Albuquerque. I held my breath while writing my application letter and was ecstatic when I was accepted for what came to be a ten-year stint in that group. That was followed by my involvement as a founding member of the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation in 2013.
For the last two decades, I have been able to give back both with time and treasure to the places that have given so much pleasure and shared knowledge to me, my children and my husband in hopes that our libraries will continue to flourish.
Libraries and books have always been part of my life. My parents were book hounds, and when my brothers and I were young, they would read to us every day. When my mother moved into Assisted Living in Denver, my brothers and I carted 40 boxes of books to the Denver Public Library.
After college, I began my professional path when I began working at Widener Library at Harvard. After getting my Master’s inLibrary Science, I began working at the library of the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine.
From there, I worked at a research library on Kirtland Air Force Base. I left when my children were born but returned to the libraries at UNM Children’s Hospital, where I was able to build a library for parents whose children were in the hospital. We also built an early literacy program for children seen in clinics.
As my children grew, my husband and I would end each day curled up reading to our kids. Now that our children have children, they are following the same path—their homes are full of books, and every evening books are being read.
My husband said his happiest memories growing up were the Saturdays when his mother would drop him off at the public library with sandwich and a dime in case he needed to make a phone call. He told me he would wander the stacks and find treasure after treasure.
Libraries are our safe place—they are a storehouse of treasures for everyone.
This is why I give.
As a young child growing up in Massachusetts, I developed a passion for rock and mineral collecting. My mom and dad would take me to mineral shops and collection spots throughout New England to feed my passion. One point my parents made clear to me was that to understand and learn more about mineral collecting, I would have to read and learn more about the formation and properties of minerals! I thought, okay, so, how do I do that?
We lived in a small town with a public library. I went in and asked about the section on rocks and minerals and took out three or four books on the subject. The world opened for me! This led me to a better understanding of how and why minerals and rocks form, and it really expanded my knowledge of geology and the earth!
A big part of this was a sense of accomplishment in getting my first library card. With it, I could go and explore and check out that perfect book to further my pursuit of knowledge!
In high school, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the field of geology and the earth sciences. I read my way through the local library and then reached out to other facilities, such as the MIT and Harvard University Mineral Collections and their bookstores. On all family trips, we would take a field trip to understand the local geology or hit a collecting area! I had a book in my hand about the area we were going to see so I could better understand its geology. The key to this all was that I gained access to the books through the public library.
We took a trip to Hawaii, which really kicked off an appetite for knowledge on volcanoes. I was really taken by their beauty and power, so I reached out from our local library to the US Geological Survey. Around this time, I became a big fan of Stephen J Gould; I would read his columns in Natural History Magazine and his many books. He really lit a fire in me to understand the history of the earth and life on it.
At the end of high school, I spent time seeing how I could continue this passion and pursued a degree in geotechnical engineering at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, NM. I found a fantastic school library there that really furthered my passion. My career has kept me involved with the earth and how it works.
Since moving to Albuquerque, I have been a big user of the Albuquerque Public Library and the UNM Library. I have explored new places and theories in science through the books that I have read and appreciated. I can learn so much by just reading, and it has opened new worlds for me. I also find it very calming to pick up a book on many diverse topics and learn to appreciate the world.
It all comes down to having the curiosity and passion for exploring and learning by connecting with a vast pool of knowledge called the library. The potential to me is limitless!
Thanks for the opportunity to share “why I give to the library.” For me, it’s pretty simple. I give because I love books, and I love the very premise of a library – a community space where anyone can go – and no one is excluded. ’ve always loved books, and I credit my parents with that. I loved reading as a child, and books have continued to be an important part of my adult life.
I especially loved my elementary school library when I was assigned to be the library helper sitting at the front desk — checking books out, stamping library cards, sorting and shelving books. I loved it! When my daughters were young, it was an adventure to head to downtown Albuquerque to our main library branch, down the stairs to the children’s room to discover books and just hang out. And now there is the joy of introducing books to my four grandkids!
Another highlight in my lifelong love of libraries was visiting the Library of Congress in Washington DC — that was on my first trip there – I didn’t make it to DC until I was an adult – it was a must-see for me. And finally, learning about our fellow board member, Samantha Gallegos’, love of Suzzallo library on the University of Washington campus – I went to college there as well and had that same love, well maybe, awe is a better word. It is a wondrous space. Shockingly, we weren’t there at the same time but what a great connection!
My story feels a little different. I didn’t grow-up in a community with a library within walking distance and my father took our only car to work every morning. I was slow learning to read and only remember my mother reading Readers Digest and my father reading the SF Chronicle.
Then one day, long after I had started school, a book mobile showed up at the bottom of my street. I walked down the hill, ventured inside, and was created by the nicest librarian, stacks of colorful books, and a bench to sit on as I leafed through various options. While I was shy, I eventually managed to ask for a recommendation. What followed were classics like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Thumbelina, and books by Beverly Cleary. I loved my bookmobile and its every-other week visit to my neighborhood.
As I got older, I started studying in libraries — my H.S. library and my local public library. That pattern persisted into college and even medical school. The library was always such a safe and welcoming place. I loved the card catalog system, the posters announcing lectures or clubs, getting lost in the stacks, finding hiding places to set-up my study space, and being able to stay until closing.
Then for years I didn’t visit libraries. I was busy with work and my family. I didn’t read much for myself during those years other than medical journals and textbooks. However, I did read to my son and we opened each other’s eyes to the wonderful world of children’s literature. The books we read were mostly purchased or received as gifts. It was almost as if we had our own children’s library at home. It wasn’t until I found the time to join a Book Club that I rediscovered my local Tony Hillerman Library. What a resource it was when it was my turn to review the selected book.
So why do I give? I think it started just realizing how lucky I have been, as I could just buy a book if I wanted one. Libraries make it possible for everyone to have access to books. But as I got more involved, I saw libraries as so much more than just books. Libraries bring people together, offering culture and companionship across all ages with their varied programs and clubs. A library is a refugee and a safe place for our teens, and it helps with reading, exploration, and independence for our young people. I think a public library is the most important institution that a community can have, and I want our libraries to thrive. That’s why I give.
After a national search, Dean was selected to be the library director in 2010. He came to Albuquerque in 2008. A native of Indiana, he thought it was time for him to come to the Southwest. Previous jobs after his 1987 graduation with a Masters in Library Science from the University of Indiana at Bloomington, had taken him to much different climes in much larger cities: New York City and London, England. He began his tenure with our system serving as the Assistant Director in charge of public services.
After receiving his degree in librarianship, Dean’s varied experience prepared him well for assuming the director’s position. In New York, where he was hired immediately after receiving his M.L.S. degree and stayed for fifteen years, Dean experienced life in a sampling of the city system’s 90 branches (the city, having about 16 times as large a population as Albuquerque, has three systems – one for Manhattan, one for Brooklyn, and one for Queens) largely as a children’s librarian. In London, he worked in one of the large city’s local districts, Southwark. There, for five years, he worked on development, including applying for and administering grants, and on early childhood literacy projects.
“I got tired of London’s six-hour days [in winter]!” Dean noted. He had been in Tucson to visit family and liked the Southwest, so the attraction of a job in Albuquerque and its warmer, dryer, less cloudy weather, contrasted to London’s, was great.
He assumed the job as library director in 2011, moving into his second-floor office and directing the library system and its eighteen branches, while becoming an integral part of the Cultural Services Division of Albuquerque city government. He supervises a workforce including 40 professional librarians and many more paraprofessionals, clerical staff, and pages. Each branch is supervised by a librarian; each is part of a region with a regional head – for example, Central-Unser branch librarian Mary Sue Houser is in charge of her own library as well as supervising the Westgate and Alamosa branches. The regional system works well, Dean says, in allowing for coverage when a staff member is ill or on vacation, and also provides mentoring for some of the less senior members of the library staff.
When asked why libraries are important to me, I often answer with A Tale of Five Libraries.
I grew up on a small family farm outside Wyoming, Illinois. My mother was my high school English teacher and when a term paper was assigned, all her students were directed to the Wyoming Public Library — a one story, one room library donated by Andrew Carnegie.
The Seymour Library at Knox College in Galesburg Illinois was next. Home to more than 500,000 volumes plus hundreds of journals, magazines, and newspapers, I spent many hours within this beautifully maintained academic sanctuary.
Most of 1968 was spent researching my doctoral dissertation on Peruvian foreign policy at the biblioteca of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Peru. Housed in the Torre Tagle Palace in Lima, this magnificent building was completed in 1735 in the Baroque style and has unforgettable wooden balconies.
The Paris Institute of Political Studies, or Sciences Po, is found in the Saint Germain des Prés Quarter on the Left Bank in Paris. It’s a state-of-the-art bibliotheque where I turn to for research on North Africa and Southeast Asia.
The Siam Society in Bangkok, Thailand was established in 1904. This modern library is housed in a compound of teak houses relocated from northern Thailand. For me, it has long been a source of information on all things Southeast Asia, including Buddhism and Buddhist sculptures.
Back to the original question - Why are libraries such an important part of my life? Over the years, these five libraries – and others around the world – have enabled me to pursue a 30-year career with a multinational corporation, living and working in 10 countries. Libraries also allowed me to pursue a parallel career as an author in which I have published 25 books and monographs, 34 chapters in books edited by others, and more than 350 articles and reviews. Libraries matter.
Personally, I've never been able to jump on the digital book bandwagon. There is something in the physicality of printed books that is a comforting, tactile experience for me. So, naturally, I've collected a massive collection of books over the last few decades. This collection has followed me in my adult life as I've moved across the world and schlepped my books with me. It's been a huge liability to have hundreds of heavy boxes of just books trail me as I've taken the windy road that has led me to settle here in Albuquerque.
Although I seem to have passed on my bibliophile tendencies to my kids, a breaking point was inevitable. We simply don't have the space to keep endlessly acquiring more books! For my family and me, the constraint is space. For others, it's money and resources. For others, it's cultural. There are many reasons why people may not have access to the books and ideas that they want or need. Libraries are, for me, a glorious wonderland of glee - shelf after shelf, wall after wall of books - new ones calling to me all the time to be discovered.
I give because I love books. And I want others, regardless of their circumstances or constraints, to have easy access to the world of ideas that books offer. I have lived abroad in places without public libraries. Access to the knowledge and ideas in these places is reserved for only the elite. Places without libraries tend to lack accessible indoor places for people to gather, and I can feel this inequity in the social interactions I have had living in societies without libraries.
To this point, I also give because libraries are safe spaces of connection in a world that is increasingly disconnected and lonesome. Yes, they offer books, but they offer so much more: community, connectedness, shelter, and self-discovery—to name a few. Libraries embody the best of society: a democratizing access point in our social infrastructure where everyone is welcome, everyone is respected, and where we are all on an even playing field. Money cannot buy you priority access in a library—they are countercultural in that way. Libraries are places where the rich and poor come together to ask questions and seek answers; to take classes and find solace; a free place of activity for the whole family.
Libraries are hidden gems that shoulder an oversized responsibility in bolstering what unites us, all the more important in times when divisiveness is pulling our communities apart. I especially felt this living in Brooklyn, NY, with a newborn and four-year-old. Four of us lived in 500 square feet (which we shared with my oversized book collection). We had limited income—I worked for a nonprofit, and my wife was finishing her dissertation. We didn't have money or resources to regularly buy access to museums and play spaces that our neighbors did. The library was our place—rain, snow, or punishing sun—we were always welcome, and the kids were always entertained. Our local library was an extension of our daily lives.
I give because I want everyone in Albuquerque to have access to world-class libraries like I have. Our beautiful city has many serious challenges. Access to welcoming libraries can help fill the gap in instances where our schools and social services are falling short. Indirectly libraries can lead to a more skilled workforce, more economic development, and reduction in crime. I want libraries to help Burqueños elevate themselves to realize their full potential, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, or means. I want libraries to help Albuquerque blossom into a diverse, thriving community rooted in respect for ideas, cultures, and people.
Join me in giving to the Albuquerque Public Library Foundation to ensure our libraries continue to lead the people of Albuquerque to brighter tomorrows.
I have loved the public library as long as I can remember.
Growing up in Yorkshire, England, I loved climbing into the cozy warmth of the mobile library that wound its way up and down the narrow lanes to reach each tiny hilltop village. Later, on my first visit to London, I was awestruck and in love with the imposing grandeur of the British Library – which I learned had the most catalogued items of any library in the world.
I loved the sense of mystery and arcane knowledge I felt in every library I explored. I loved, and was astonished by, the idea that I was trusted to borrow these marvelous treasures….these books of magic and possibility! I loved the limitless feeling of abundance. I loved all librarians, regardless of temperament. I loved…and continue to love the library with unabashed intensity – and for so many reasons.
But my love of the public library is not why I give. I give because of all the times I have needed the library.
When I needed a refuge from the unkindness of my schoolmates, I found sanctuary at the library.
When I needed to believe I was destined for a bigger life than the one I saw stretching out in my small English village, I found a whole wide world waiting for me in books at the library.
When, arriving in New York City, I found it far more overwhelming than Holden Caulfield had led me to believe — it was at the New York Public Library that I got my bearings, and it was, of course, a librarian who helped me find my lodging, decipher the subway map and told me where to eat for cheap. I went back to the library every day until my money ran out and I fled to New Mexico.
I needed the library more than ever when I became a single parent, living in Albuquerque, where I hadn’t yet found my feet. I needed the elders who frequented the library, and who helped me in raising my sons.
When I began my career as a community inclusion advocate for people with disabilities, the library was often the only place my friends and I were not only welcomed but felt valued.
When I lost my job after 10 years, I needed the library to remind me I was a real person with potential. When I realized I needed to be involved in positive change because the world had lost its mind, it was at the library that I found the sense of purpose and community and hope I so badly needed.
Looking back, I’ve needed the library for so many reasons. And I need it now — we all do — more than ever before. And that’s why I give.