Celebrating National Library Week: How three libraries transformed one reader

Happy National Library Week, readers! In my opinion, every week should be spent celebrating the role of libraries in our culture and society. Libraries bring people together in ways no other establishment ever could – not only through books and literacy, but through technology, community outreach programs, educational opportunities, historical/genealogical research… Essentially, a trip to a library will help you answer just about any question you have about any topic. In an age where funding for libraries keeps getting cut, it is crucial that we remember how necessary libraries are.

This year’s theme for National Library week is “Libraries Transform.” Mulling over all the various ways a library can shape and influence children, teens, adults, and entire communities, I found myself thinking of the libraries closest to my own heart. The following are the three libraries that have helped transform me the most, the ones that became an intrinsic part of my life – and my Self.

Ashland Community Library – Ashland, ME: I still remember the smell of the building, the warmth of the sunlight streaming through the windows, the Disney movies available for rent lined up on the shelves in their squishy VHS covers. My house was about a quarter mile from the library, and my sister and I would often walk there on summer afternoons. She would march purposefully over to the “big people” books while I meandered to the children’s section, indulging my need for more The Baby-Sitters Club chapter books. It didn’t matter that I’d read them all before. They were there, and I needed to have them. That was the beauty of our library to me: if a book was on the shelf, it was mine for the taking, so long as I took good care of it and brought it back for the next kid like me. This library was a staple of my childhood. As far back as I can remember, there was my mother bringing us to the library, and then my sister and I going there together, and eventually me walking there on my own, crossing the main road (that netted, on a busy day, perhaps twenty cars driving on it in any given hour) to show up on the threshold, ready for the next book. I will always be grateful to the Ashland Community Library – along with my parents, this place is most responsible for transforming me into a reader at such an early age and for instilling in me a lifelong love affair with words, stories, and learning. This quaint little library is proof that even a tiny building full of books contains an endless arsenal of magic.



Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, Orono: Attending UMO – for me – had one advantage above all else: Fogler Library. It was here I studied, read, and wrote for hours at a time. I had my two favorite spots on the second and third floors – in an armchair or at the long study tables, both seats offering vantage points out the window down to Memorial Union below. The armchair spot was better for serious studying, for there I could really settle in and read for hours. The study tables, gleaming in the sunshine, were my favorite place to write in my journals if I had a few hours to kill between classes. There was a hushed, almost reverent silence all around me, disrupted occasionally by someone’s cell phone or an outburst of laughter from the frat boys and girls who somehow got lost and found themselves there. Fogler Library was my safe haven on the UMO campus, the place I could cloister myself away and read or write until the words began to vibrate on the page before me. Though I graduated from college four years ago, I still remember my afternoons spent in Fogler Library with perfect clarity, and I often reflect on the peace of mind I found within its walls.


Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME: If you’ve read my previous two pieces about CML (http://twicesoldtales.bangordailynews.com/2016/02/25/home/more-reasons-to-love-curtis-memorial-library/http://twicesoldtales.bangordailynews.com/2016/01/17/home/a-world-of-possibility-at-the-curtis-memorial-library/), you already know the importance this library has for me. This is the place that first welcomed me when I moved to Brunswick, the place where I finally felt I’d come home, the place where I now get to work. CML, for me, is the example of how a library should be: staffed by happy librarians eager to help any patron who comes along, a building full of old and new books, movies, CDs, audiobooks, puzzles, and fun exhibits and galleries. Often when I tell someone I work at a library, they muse that it must be nice to have a slow-paced job where I can sit and read all day. On the contrary, there are very few slow shifts for me at CML. I am on my feet for hours at a time – checking books in and out, sorting them to be shelved, answering patron questions, running to the shelves to find misplaced books, movies, and CDs, packing up books to be sent out through Interlibrary Loan. Even when I work upstairs in Technical Services, I am always busy – unpacking and cataloging new books, getting them in the system, making labels for them. Anyone who thinks librarians sit around reading or knitting on the job have an antiquated idea of what librarians really do these days. CML always has something going on. I like being surrounded by flurry and activity  – seeing all the people come into CML assures me that our culture has not yet abandoned their need and desire for the transformative powers of libraries.

What library has most influenced you? I’d love to hear all about it! Comment below to share your ‘Libraries Transform’ story. And remember – when in doubt, go to the library! I’m paraphrasing Stephen King there, but I don’t think he would mind – or at least I hope he wouldn’t. (And if you’re reading this, SK, thank you for the nightmares about library policemen.)






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And, for a sample of my fiction writing, follow the link to read my original short story, “Lost and Found,” recently published by the Hawaii Pacific Review: https://hawaiipacificreview.org/2015/12/10/lost-and-found/


Shannon Bowring

About Shannon Bowring

I am 26 years old. I was raised up in the County, in the tiny town of Ashland. I attended the University of Maine in Orono and graduated in 2012 with a BA in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. Reading and writing have always been the greatest loves of my life. I am most at home in the dusty corners of used bookstores, surrounded by forgotten books. One day, inspiration struck when I decided I wanted to combine all my loves – writing, reading, traveling, exploring these beloved shops – to create an outlet in which I can share my bookish adventures with an audience of like-minded readers who could appreciate my love of words and stories.