GPL Column: Literacy changes lives

As children, we are often asked the question of what we would like to “be” when we grow up. My answer was always quick and confident: I wanted to be a tour guide at Walt Disney World.

As an adult, I look back on that answer now and know I chose it for three reasons. One, Walt Disney World was a place that brought me excitement and joy and working there would seem like playtime. Two, I wanted to see others’ faces light up as I introduced them to the thrill and magic of Disney. And three, I like to be the center of attention.

I never did make the move to Florida, but I did end up working in another one of my favorite places—a library. Libraries have endless possibilities of discovery, learning and entertainment. They can be a place to escape and a place to explore. And they have their own thrill and magic without the amusement park costs.

One part of my childhood goal did come true, though. As the Community Relations Specialist at Greenwood Public Library, I give a lot of tours of our building. I introduce patrons, donors, and city and business leaders to our space and the services we provide. Why would so many people want to take a guided tour of our building? Well, that can be summed up by the question I’m asked on practically every tour: “Libraries aren’t just for books anymore, are they?”

This question seems to surprise many people, and that is often because we tend to think of our childhood libraries as our present-day libraries. But libraries aren’t museums. They frequently change in structure, programming, and services to reflect the needs and interests of their community. And they simply aren’t replicas of libraries of the past. If your memories of your library growing up include limited collections, time-consuming searches, or outdated furniture, it’s time for a tour of your local library.

A tour will of course show you the beautiful spaces and impressive equipment in your library, such as a business hub, private study rooms, and a studio makerspace, but it will more importantly emphasize the belief that threads through the whole building—that literacy changes lives. Literacy levels the playing field in our society, giving everyone in our community the opportunity for growth and success. It increases educational performances and fosters economic development. Literacy advances us, plain and simple, and we see how it changes lives every single day.

Tayla, a single mother here in Greenwood, recently shared her story: “As a single mother, GPL has been a lifesaver, especially during nursing school. I’ve gotten my associate’s and bachelor’s and now I’m going back to get my doctorate. The kid’s department has given me a place where I could sit at one of the tables near the interactive play areas and keep an eye on her, but could also feel safe if I got more absorbed in my studies.

As a single parent the resources here have been amazing and have really eased the burden on myself. I’ve felt a part of the community and have received so much encouragement from staff even during some of my hardest times. GPL has been an amazing resource for me.”

Do you want to help change lives in your community? Invest in literacy. You can visit our website – www.greenwoodlibrary.us/donations – to learn more about the Greenwood Library Foundation. A gift today will help us to change more lives in the future.

Julia Reynolds is the Community Relations Specialist at Greenwood Public Library. GPL staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]