The Summer a Library Saved My Life

wee me getting a much-loved
and oft-checked-out book
for my birthday.
Libraries have long been an important part of my life. Whatever town we lived in -- and there were a lot of them-- my mother took us to get library cards, and we (me and my 4 siblings) always checked out the maximum number of books. If we checked out a book multiple times, that book just might appear as a wrapped gift on a birthday or Christmas. But no one of us kids loved books more than I did.

Me (a few decades older than 11)
sitting in a very special chair
in the Children's Dept.
at the St. Joe Library
One summer when I was about eleven, our parents split the kids up between grandparents so they could have a couple of child-free weeks. My (mischievous) brother Ken and I got put with Grandma and Granddaddy Dykes in Port St. Joe, Florida. I'm not sure why, but that time I got really homesick. I was crying and crying and begged my mom to come get me. My grandmother, in her infinite wisdom, hugged me and gave me cornbread and took me to the library.

There a sweet librarian (whose name I wish I could recall!) showed me where the horse books were and led me to the colorful rug that was cushioned with fluffy pillows. My grandma sat with me while I read books and forgot for a couple of hours about home and missing my mama. The sweet refuge of stories was exactly what I needed. We went to the library every day the rest of that summer. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have survived that trip if not for my Grandma and the Port St. Joe Library.*

So, librarians, if you're reading this: what you do is important. You never know whose life you are saving when you welcome them in with a smile and a well-stocked shelf of horse books. Thank you!

*Read a more detailed version of this story at Live Your Poem.

 Irene Latham is the author of more than a dozen current and forthcoming poetry, fiction and picture books for children and adults, including Leaving Gee's Bend, 2011 ALLA Children's Book of the Year. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she also serves as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal.


  1. What a wise grandma and librarian. I was saved by a bookmobile librarian who allowed me to check out any book. At that time, children were only led to the children's books! She shared good ones, too that I might not have found. Yes, librarians can save us! I love your story, Irene!

  2. I think we all must have our own "saved by the library" story. Thanks for sharing yours Irene.

  3. The power of books and a smart Grandma!


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