Besides public schools, the public library system is the most important institution in my life, and I’d argue both are the underpinnings for democracy.
Saturdays in my youth meant walking six blocks to the library and picking up a stack of books. I was drawn to the classics, and to further my image as a young genius, would pick the thickest I could find.
Thankfully I quickly dropped the pretentiousness for the truth of what libraries gave me: independence, a quiet place to think, knowledge unabridged by the adults in my life, and ideas, ideas, ideas, which are fuel for my soul. Getting my first library card is among my earliest and fondest memories.
What do libraries mean to you? Do you love them? Have they become irrelevant in this digital day and age? Do you turn to them more as community centers that host lectures and feature cafes?
Here are a few interesting facts about libraries:
The oldest known public library was opened in 859 CE in Fez, Morocco, as part of the University of Al-Qarawiyyin. It’s still in operation.
The oldest free public library in the US opened in 1743 in Darby, PA.
The first library for working-class women was opened in 1860 in Greenwich Village in New York City.
The Western Branch Library in Louisville, KY, opened in 1905, was the first for, and operated by, Black people.
National Library Week this year is April 23 - 29, so start planning how to celebrate your local library!
For updates about Martha’s forthcoming books, new and giveaways, subscribe to her website: MarthaEngber.com.
BLISS ROAD a memoir, June 2023.
THE FALCON, THE WOLF AND THE HUMMINGBIRD, a historical novel, Sept. 19, 2023