I Believe in the Public Library

Qin - Woodbury, Minnesota
Entered on October 18, 2005
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I can’t imagine what my life would be and what I would be doing today if there wasn’t a public library.

When I came to the United States in 1991 at the age of 27, I couldn’t understand and speak English well. I didn’t know what to do with my life at that time.

Fortunately I lived within walking distance to the Madison Public Library in Madison, Wisconsin. I went to the library several times a week and checked out one or two bags full of books every time, starting with books at the kindergarten level. I could read a few dozen a day. The more I read, the more I hungered for books and knowledge.

Growing up in China in the sixties and seventies, I never visited a public library. My hometown, Suzhou, is a medium sized city in China, but there was only one public library that was open to only a limited number of people. I didn’t read much as a child and had never experienced the enjoyment of visiting a library and reading.

After my English improved, I got a library page position at the Madison Public Library to check in books. As books passed through my hands, I found more interesting ones to read. Every workday I took a bag of finished books to work and at the end of the day my empty bag was again filled with books to take home.

As a library user and a part-time library worker, I grew to love the library and reading. I dreamed of becoming a professional librarian and working full-time in the library. I went to the library school and got my master’s degree in library science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My dream became a reality.

Library was my haven during the difficult times in my life when I didn’t know what to do and who I was. Library provided me books and knowledge, and nurtured my hungry and lonely soul. Now library is where I work for a living and visit with my two kids for adventures and enjoyment. Both of my kids got their own library cards before they could talk very well. I am glad my kids visit library more often than McDonald’s and they read more books than eat French fries. I am grateful they can grow up with lots of books and view library as part of their life.

As an immigrant, I have come to love my adopted country. For me, one of the nicest things of living in the United States is the easy and free access to the public library and the wonderful services it provides to everyone regardless of their age, background, and social status. We are all equal in the library and knowledge is freely available to everyone who desires it.

I believe passionately in the public library and what it can do for people. It can change life. It changed my life.