Libraries are nostalgic places for me. Growing up, my mom used to take my siblings and me to the library regularly. We’d compete in summer reading challenges, and I remember being super pumped as a kid when I finally could elevate to the ‘Gold Readers’ card. When I moved from Illinois to Virginia in middle school (talk about crazy adolescent transition), the library in my new town was walking distance from our house and one of the first places we visited. I’d always leave with more books than I could feasibly finish before the due dates (which naturally lead to fines I had to pay off with my piddly lawn-cutting money), and the innocent excitement that comes with holding heaps of new worlds in your hands.
Throughout college, I’d check-out an occasional book, but mostly I was in the school library to study. I didn’t peruse the shelves or chat with the librarians. As a freshman, I opened a new public library card when I moved to Milwaukee, but only went there once, maybe twice. Back then, I went to the library to attend overdramatic club meetings or Friday night study sessions with water bottles of gin.
Once I started reading more as an adult, the financial advisor in me promised myself I wouldn’t go broke buying every interesting book. Instead of shopping for more shelves, I marched ten blocks west from my office to the city’s main branch for the bookish. Milwaukee’s Central Library is gorgeous. Mosaic tiles covers the floor, and pillars stretch toward the high domed ceiling. The entrance alone was spiritual, sacred. Eventually, I stopped drooling at the Renaissance architecture and headed to the service desk to renew my card, which to my surprise (ahem, horror) had been expired for eight years. Eight. Years. I couldn’t believe it. I quickly updated my card, picked up a few books, and left with that same excitement I had as a kid.
Entrance to the Milwaukee Central Library
The library is even better than I remembered. Now that I’m able to place holds on the app and download audiobooks to my phone, I’m checking out all sorts of titles that I wouldn’t have wanted to buy before. I recently read an article from the Pews Research Center that millennials are the most likely generation to use public libraries. Though that might say something about the millennial financial situation in the US (which is an entirely separate topic I’ll refrain from soapboxing about), I still think it’s a pretty dope statistic. The library is awesome, and though I still occasionally return my books back late, paying that fine doesn’t bother me like it used to. Such an amazing public institution is worth so much more.