PLibrary : Young woman reading by bookshelf in libraryicture a shy girl living in a very small Midwestern town where there’s not a lot to do but daydream. The second of six children, she needs to escape the boisterous noise of her household now and again. She needs space to think and dream and be alone. She discovers the local library. It’s small and quiet, and within walking distance. It’s free and warm and cozy and has books and a kindly librarian who knows how to be helpful without ever hovering or disturbing or embarrassing the awkward preteen. The girl discovers a passion for reading in this quiet, welcoming place. And kindles a dream to become a writer.

Fifty years and 20 published books later, I’m writing in humble praise all those small-town libraries and librarians who offer a space for individuals to grow and discover other worlds through books and other media. Please, librarians around the world, both in public and school libraries, know how much we appreciate you, even if we never say a word. Please, know how much influence you’ve had on some of us, even if we don’t recognize this until decades later.

Thank you, all the small-town teachers and librarians who set me free without even knowing they were doing it.

Below are photos of the three public libraries where I discovered myself and dared to dream dreams that have come true: the libraries in Chamberlain, South Dakota; Sisseton, South Dakota; and Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Chamberlain, South Dakota

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Sisseton, South Dakota

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Wahpeton, North Dakota