New York City, NY

Opinion | The Case for Public Libraries

Chelsea Reed

New York City is, arguably, the greatest city in the world. Any resource you could possibly want, or need, is at your disposal.

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New York Public LibraryClay Banks

I grew up spending my summer days volunteering at the local library. While my peers were at sports camp, church camp, or on a lavish family vacation, I was at the library (sometimes I was at choir camp, too). I had a deep love for reading at an early age, and the library was my mecca. A refuge from the relentless summer heat in Texas, and filled with an endless amount of stories waiting to be discovered.

Instead of trying to achieve an athletic ability that was proved near impossible with my general lack of coordination, I read. Anything and everything I could get my hands on. I went into my teenage years having devoured the stories of some of the greats: Nikki Giovanni, J.K. Rowling, Chuck Palahniuk, and Lemony Snicket.

The stories were a refuge in themselves, a safe place from an ominous world. My love of literature quickly translated to a love of writing. I found that whatever possessed these authors, possessed me as well.

I have a public library in small-town Texas to thank for that. Creativity is not often embraced in the academic and corporate world as the superpower it truly is, and the books I read normalized the way I felt, giving me the confidence to pursue the arts well beyond high school and college.

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Empire State BuildingChristian Ladewig

Fast forward to the year 2022, and imagine my delight to be a New York City resident, with one of the world's most comprehensive public library systems as my playground. The very first week I moved to New York, I got my library card.

The New York Public Library flagship is breathtaking. I regularly spend my days in the Rose Reading Room writing away, soaking in the free air conditioning and complimentary wi-fi. It truly is a freelancer's dream come true, with the added sparkle of the Rose Reading Room resembling The Great Hall at Hogwarts.

The wealth of resources the New York Public Library offers astound me. Everything from professional development, career services, and youth outreach can be found within the 92 library branches around the boroughs. All free of charge for New York City residents. Magical.

I have done my childhood self proud. Pursuing a life I only had a glimpse of from Sylvia Plath, Joan Didion, and Patti Smith. The public library continues to allow my dreams to be a reality, free of charge.

In a world where everything comes at a price, I am forever grateful the library exists.

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