Without a doubt, one of the best services offered by the government is the library.
When my parents immigrated to Canada, we were not that well off. I was almost four, and I remember being very shy and totally a mommy's girl just. I wasn't very good at trusting strangers, and I was a pretty cautious, quiet child. My parents gave me everything I needed, but they didn't splurge on items like books and it was futile to ask for them.
But, there was the library. I wish I could remember the first time I walked into a library, but I can't. I suppose it's when my parents were in college. There was a massive library nearby and my mom would visit to read books. I think she hoped it would improve her English. I can't tell you the first time I checked a book out from the library either. My memory of the library begins with bringing tens of books home after I scoured the shelves.
I can't remember reading many picture books. I think at some point my mom tried to force them on me because I wasn't a very good reader. (I have a distinct memory of struggling with the words cat and bat.) I guess I thought books were boring. But the beautiful thing about the library is that it isn't always about books.
The library had an extensive selection of VCR's, and I devoured them. I adored Disney (my favourite was Beauty and the Beast), and my mom laughs when she recounts how I cried when I watched The Land Before Time (in fairness, when the mommy dinosaur died, it was devastating). I even acted out some of the Lion King and The Land Before Time movies by transforming our living room into an elaborate obstacle course so when the dinosaurs jumped about on their journeys, I would climb around the couch (my parents LOVED that part).
I read Dear Dumb Diary; I read Junie. B Jones. Then I met my next passion: Harry Potter. Reading Harry Potter was special because my mom read it too. I remember struggling through the words and asking her what they meant. It was one of the first chapter books I read, and I don't know how but somehow, I became a big reader soon after.
I would visit the library with my mom and we would check out a good twenty books. I read up to six chapter books a day (granted, they were small ones). I couldn't buy any of the books I wanted, but I could take them from the library and that was literally the next best thing. Whenever I was in a bad place, I would retreat to my room and read. They kind of taught me a lot about the world, and my childhood is a huge reason why I'm a reader today.
The other thing the library offered were programs. I remember my mom signing me up to a few and I was super shy, but I had fun. I think I went to a Lord of the Rings program, which was really funny because I never read the books. Either way, the library proved all throughout my childhood to be a safe place.
When I was a pre-teen, and um, stuff wasn't going so well at home, I would compose myself and go to the library where I would forget about everything else and just focus on books. The library is a pleasant space, and it was also my safe space. I brought my sister with me sometimes and even if I was uncomfortable in other places, the library always meant a lot to me.
To put it really simply, books are a huge part of my life and I wouldn't be able to have them without the library. We're better off now, but I still visit the library monthly and I volunteer there because I know what a safe haven it is. I used the library to entertain myself, and my mom used it to educate herself. My dad used it to stay connected with his home country by reading the news. It has meant a lot to my family, and I can't say enough about the facilities and the people there.
I think I wrote this post just because libraries need to be appreciated more. They do so much for people and they don't get enough credit. I would like to thank every single library and librarian throughout the years because their work is appreciated.
The true test to the strength of a civilization is in the libraries, and I'm lucky to live in a city with first class service.