It was probably no surprise to anyone that I became a librarian. Every week without fail, from age five to twenty-seven, I visited the Hudson Branch of the Pasco County Library Cooperative. I always had at least 10 books checked out at any given time. When I got my first library card, I was so proud to sign my name, and I never left home without it. In fact, that card is still in my wallet today, even though I don’t live in Pasco County anymore. It’s been with me for so long, it just doesn’t seem right to take it out.
At seventeen, I arrived at the University of South Florida and immediately went to the six-story main library on the Tampa Campus. Throughout my university experience, the library was the place to go for computer and Internet access, to find a quiet study place, to meet up with friends and classmates for group projects (and occasional tea parties), and, most importantly, to obtain all of the books and articles I needed for my assignments. I also worked there for three years after graduating with my master’s degree in library science, which was an invaluable experience, and I’m thankful to the librarians and library staff who mentored me during that stage of my career.
For me, libraries have always been an essential part of my world, and I don’t just say that because I’m a librarian. For book addicts like me, a library card is the only way to feed the reading habit. I could never afford to buy all of the books I want to read, nor is there enough space in my home to store them. Many of us have switched to e-books, which solves the space problem but not the money one. Your library card is the solution to both of these problems, whether you like paper books or e-books! In addition to the thousands of paper books available at each of your Highlands County Libraries, you have access to thousands of e-books; all you need is an e-reader, tablet, smartphone, or computer. Not into books? That’s okay. Your libraries also have plenty of movies and TV shows for your viewing pleasure. Whether you’re into sci-fi action movies, documentaries, costume dramas like Downton Abbey, foreign films, or cartoons, we’ve got something for everyone.
Libraries have a big economic impact on their communities. These days, it can be hard to get a job without a computer. Job seekers need Internet access to search for jobs, send out applications, communicate with prospective employers, and prepare resumes. But with your library card, you can do all of those things and more. In addition to our public access computers and free wifi, Highlands County’s libraries also have materials to help you write resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews, study for tests, and brush up on your technology skills. We have a great electronic database that can benefit job seekers, and anyone else who wants to learn something new. Universal Class provides free continuing education courses on subjects like accounting, computer basics, GED preparation, business management and more! The courses are all self-paced, and can be accessed on any computer through the library website, www.myhlc.org.
Libraries play a crucial role in children’s education and development. There’s evidence that kids need to hear 1,000 stories before they’re ready to read. That might seem like a daunting number, but at one book a day, you’d get there before your child’s third birthday. It’s a wonderful opportunity for family bonding, too. Your Highlands County Libraries have all the books you’ll need, with new ones continually arriving, and we also hold regular children’s events, including storytimes and craft programs. Our Summer Reading Program is filled with activities to keep kids reading and occupied while they’re not in school. We love seeing kids get excited about books, and we’re here to help you and your family find the stories that will inspire them to become lifelong readers.
Are you thankful for your library? Each of our libraries has its own Friends of the Library group, filled with people who are passionate about Highlands County’s libraries and want to support them. The Friends sponsor most of our programs and events, especially the children’s Summer Reading Program, and they help us purchase books and other materials. Each Friends group is an independent nonprofit organization that raises funds through book sales. The Sebring Friends have their own bookstore downtown, and the Avon Park and Lake Placid Friends are based inside the library buildings. You can support the Friends by becoming a member of your library’s group, by volunteering with them, or by donating gently used books and other items.
From helping people get jobs to encouraging children to become strong readers, libraries transform lives. Although books are a big part of what we do, libraries offer unlimited possibilities for everyone, no matter what you’re interested in. A library card isn’t just a piece of plastic that lets you get books or use a computer; it’s a key to opportunity. I could not have achieved any of my goals or dreams without the help of my library, and I’ve heard similar stories from many of our patrons. Libraries have certainly transformed my life, and I’m thankful to all of the people who have helped me on the road to becoming one of Highlands County’s librarians.