The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
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November 2008

What’s New · Making a Difference in Your Life Writing Competition Winners · Adults

T.M. Bowling, 1st place

My earliest childhood memory of the library consists of walking hand in hand with my mother to the Overlook Branch while chanting “lie-berry, lie-berry!” in a sing-song voice. I was frequently ill as a child due to allergies and asthma and I spent a great deal of time reading library books. The library enabled me to experience a world of activities and ideas through its books that I was denied in “real life. ” Over the decades, I remained an avid library reader, often borrowing 2 or 3 books weekly. But in the last 7½ years I have come to appreciate the vital services that the library offers in a new way. I was involved in a serious auto accident which took away my ability to work, to drive and to fully control my hands. As a result of my physical and financial limitations, the library has now become my “lifeline ” to the “outside ” world. I not only continue to read library books I also borrow DVDs and CDs for information and entertainment. I pick up the weekly CIN and CityBeat magazines from the Library, eagerly perusing their pages for local events that I am able to participate in. But the most important resource in the Library to me has been the ever-helpful staff. Whether reserving an in-demand title, helping me operate a computer key board or answering a simple location question, its employees tare always pleasant as well as knowledgeable (especially at the Covedale and downtown branches). Without the library, my “world, ” my daily life, world be smaller and darker, too quiet and too repetitive and much, much poorer.

Diana Brake, 2nd place

It all began at Spring Grove Cemetery. Recently widowed, I was drawn there to walk among the departed. Eventually, I began to notice the names on the monuments and markers. These were the names of schools, streets, and businesses, and written on arches over the doors of many buildings. I wanted to know more; who were these individuals; what did they do; what was their story.
Such began an obsession, which only the resources of the Public Library could remedy. Third floor, Local History was a first stop. The librarians brought out a handmade scrapbook. Neatly cut out and pasted inside were yellowed black and white photos of street names with a short biography. These had been taken from Ray Steffen’s 1960 column in the Cincinnati Post Times Star. I meticulously copied each entry and marveled that a dutiful librarian had the foresights to create such a book and that some forty years later I would find it.
My quest has continued. I have taken advantage of what is offered. The Virtual Library allows me to look at city directories of the 1800s on my home computer late at night. Many of the important original source materials have been digitized to grant easy access. Newspapers in print and on microfiche are available from the many publications hawked on the streets of Victorian Cincinnati. Inventors are found listed by name, date and patent numbers. One would be surprised to find how many inventions created massive wealth for early citizens. In Rare Books I have viewed objects of antiquity and held books of significance. Cincinnati has a rich and colorful history of people who have made remarkable contributions to the city and to the world. The Public Library has its own fascinating saga of characters. These people all lived here, worked here, gave of themselves, and many are buried at Spring Grove Cemetery
What I value about the Public Library is that it is free and available to all. I have become a docent at Spring Grove Cemetery, leading historical tours, which affords me the opportunity to share what has been so freely given to me. Thank you to everyone, past and present, at the Public Library for providing me with what I needed, to do what I love doing: telling the stories, recounting events of the lives of those individuals whose names now remain as the schools, the streets, the businesses and on the buildings of our beloved Queen City.

Sameera Shailesh Karnik, honorable mention

What Library means to me and how it has made difference in my life
The word “Library” means a store house of books, videos and audios for me. I was never a voracious reader. I always used to think, how some people can be so much engrossed in the books instead of enjoying the other leisure activities of life. I used to browse through the books at library only for my course work and reference reading. Very rarely did I do leisure reading, and that too when I was not watching television or eating.
Eventually things started changing for me. I got married and came to America and being a housewife had too much time on my hand. So I started getting acquainted with the public library near my house. Slowly but surely I became a regular member at my library. I started reading books from my library for leisure and other interesting topics. I started browsing the library“s informative web site, which helped me a great deal to place a hold and get my books from other branches. Once I was surfing some books on the Library’s website and came across a list of books for GRE (Graduate Record Examination). The books were very good and informative and they helped me to get a good score in the test. The best part was that I did not have to spend any money in buying these expensive books.
I started getting some good movie videos and enjoyed them a great deal. I had also joined the ESL classes, which were very good and helpful. They helped me to communicate with the people, as English not being my first language I had difficulty with the words and accent. The ESL classes made me more comfortable to communicate with people. Thanks to them that I am doing a volunteer job and I am at a desk where I have to talk with many people.
The staff at the library is very cooperative, amicable, and helping. They helped me to know the working of library and were always ready to answer any questions.
Now, I can say that library has changed my life here. Library has a crucial position in my life and my routine. Library has become a place I can associate myself with. Now people know me as a voracious reader. I like to learn new words and find their meaning. It has helped me develop a liking towards reading and cultivate it in a much better way. It has helped me to increase my imaginative thinking in a better and fruitful way. These skills have helped me for my essay writing too. Thanks to the library, now I have a friend called “Book”, for leisure and information.

April Sutton, honorable mention

When people come to America, they do so because they see it as a land of opportunity. However, the dirty secret of this country is that opportunities don’t necessarily exist for everybody. That’s certainly how I felt when I was growing up as just another child of poverty. Growing up poor not only meant I couldn’t do many of the things my friends were doing, it meant I was already fighting not to become a statistic. I was just five years old, just getting ready to start school, and the odds were already stacked against me graduating at eighteen. There were a lot of doors closed to me, but there was one door that was always open: the door to the library.
I spent a lot of time at the library as a child, not just because it was a free place for a poor kid, but because my mom encouraged me to read and learn beyond what I was doing in school. And I did—I read everything I could get my hands on. While my friend and classmates were busy with video games and MTV, I was always hunkered down with a book somewhere, and I loved it. Whenever I was confused about something in class, needed to do research for a paper or just wanted to learn more than what the teacher told us about something, I went to the library. I’ll admit: I didn’t always use the library for good. When one of my teachers told us we’d be recreating the Trojan War, I went to the library, found a book on the Trojan War and read the last chapter to see who emerged victorious. It’s no coincidence that by the end of classes the following week, I was one of the few surviving warriors.
As the years went by, I still spent a lot of time at the library. At eighteen, I graduated in the top five of my class and was able to go to college thanks to a handful of academic scholarships. I don’t think my success in school and my love of the library were exclusive. For me, the library is a place of opportunity. The library gave me so many opportunities: the opportunity to learn, the opportunity to succeed, the opportunity to be a well-read, well-rounded member of society, and the opportunity to be more than my circumstances.
Even in America, the land of opportunity, where else can you get opportunities like that for free?

Bobbie Swartwout, honorable mention

Reading to Our Babies
“Welcome, welcome, everyone, now we’re here let’s have some fun…”
Ms. Beth sings this song each week to begin toddler story time at the Groesbeck library, while several one through three-year-olds gather at her feet, waiting to sing, listen, and learn about the world through books and music. I have been one of the lucky parents whose child has benefited from this enriching program offered by Cincinnati’s public library.
When I gave birth to my daughter, Summer Faith, in July of 2006, I didn’t realize at the time how much my life had changed forever. However, leaving my job as a teacher to stay at home with my daughter, I knew how important it would be to surround her with literature that would introduce her to new aspects of her world, as well as the basic components of the written English language. So, when I discovered the resource of the Groesbeck Public Library, I was thrilled to realize I had a support system that would help me introduce literacy to my child.
In addition to toddler story time, the library has provided me with limitless amounts of new books that two-year-old Summer and I read each week at home together. Having access to these books, free of charge, again allows me to have conversations with Summer about experiences that I can’t always provide to her while at home. We have read about going to the beach, how to identify certain insects, and what an apple farmer does with her crop. New concepts and words are instantly taught to my daughter through these borrowed books that are shared so freely with me.
So, thank you, public library, for partnering with me to provide literary opportunities for my young daughter to grow into a life-long reader and communicator. By valuing all in our community, even our youngest babies, you will definitely reap a harvest of literate young people who will be ready to impact our world. As the childhood favorite book, Read to Your Bunny, says, “Read to your bunny, and one day, your bunny will read to you.”

Marguerite Shurte, honorable mention

The Public Library: A Friend for all the Seasons of Life
When I was a child and all things seemed young and new, the public library helped me to understand the world around me - its many mysteries, its history, and its natural phenomena. I explored, I learned, and I comprehended because books opened my understanding in a way as nothing else could. What other companion could go with me wherever I went, relieve the boredom of rainy days, help me with my school work, and always be there as my silent and loyal partner? Those library books were also a magic carpet that took me on flights of delightful fantasy and inspired dreams of the future. Many of those dreams have been realized because I first knew them through books that my library provided.
As I grew to high school and college age, the public library became invaluable. Not only books, but the many media it provided became necessary to my education. For example, I could never have written a Masters’ thesis without the many documents I found in the library. Periodicals, microfilm, and a host of other aids, as well as books, helped me through high school and two college degrees.
Later, during my career as a teacher, I was able to provide my students with excursions to the public library where we browsed through books of all kinds, heard wonderful stories, and learned lessons in responsibility as we cared for our borrowed books and returned them promptly. By this time new and advanced technology had become an integral part of the system, and students were able to enjoy and learn from its many advantages. Computers had become a living part of the library’s many resources, and a wide highway of information was now at our fingertips, providing an avenue to success. I could also check out books for reading aloud to my pupils.
Now that I have retired from active duty in the classroom, I find great satisfaction in tutoring several students as they pursue learning outside the formal classroom. Yet the library is still indispensable. We need its resources for research, verification of ideas, supplemental work, and technology. It is also where I find books for my own enjoyment, and movies and compact discs for entertainment. Librarians are always there to assist me. They help me find books, utilize technology, and make appropriate selections for my particular needs. How grateful I am for the public library! It is truly a friend for all the seasons of life.

Marcia Austin, honorable mention

The Ways the Library Makes a Difference in My Life
I have enjoyed going to the library for as long as I can remember, and I’m seventy years old. My love of libraries started with the Bookmobile that came to my grade school once a month. It was like Christmas morning to me, I couldn’t wait.
I feel like it’s a place of comfort for everybody, young or old, rich or poor, because all the resources are free and open to everyone.
As I travel to different towns and cities in this great country I always look for their library. It seems every town has one no matter how large or how small.
When Hamilton County talked about closing some of the smaller libraries I was very upset. I feel so strongly that it is necessary for those who do not have money or transportation to have the library available to them. I made calls and wrote letters to stop it from happening and it worked because a lot of other people felt the same way.
If a child is having a bad time at home the library can be a place of escape and comfort in the hundreds of books available.
When I became an adult and had to do repairs around my house I depended on the “How To” books to guide me. When computers became a large part of our lives my library offered free classes which I took advantage of. Thanks to the computer class I now know enough to pull up the subjects I’m interested in. Having access to a computer is quite an advantage for me because I don’t have a computer in my home.
During tax time I depend on the library for the I.R.S. forms, instruction booklets and the I.R.S. web site. Magazines are another of my favorites. I enjoy the wide variety of magazines available.
To conclude, my life would not be as full as it is without my public library.

Tawanda Johnson, honorable mention

What the Library Means to Me
I have had the fortunate ability to have traveled all over the world, even though I remained in one place since I was six years old, first starting with fairy tales and now with my novels.
The Library has and continues to be my world. Just walking in the library (and I go to several, depending on what’s offered in each one.) I am transposed to new world heights, new orbits of fantasy, another place and time. It has enabled me to cry, laugh, dream, escape to new visions via my reading. I do not know how I would have survived my childhood without my love of reading. I was able during my childhood to always keep my head in any situation because of my love for reading. I have met more characters, danced at more high grade entertaining establishments, met the most attractive, the most dangerous, the most entertaining characters anyone can image.
I have stayed up till 6am reading, because I could not get the book out of my head, hand, or mind, I had to see how it turned out or what happened when. I have been known to keep three books just laying on my bed waiting to be either finished, started or to maybe reread certain pages.
Even though pressing matters call, I knew I would be in other cities soon while visiting my world of reading. I am very, very lucky to have received this gift, and I am very lucky that new books are constantly being written to enjoy constantly, and that the library allows us to enjoy this service free. I also enjoy the DVD’s,music, the atmosphere, the relaxing qualities the Library exudes. I Thank you for this service you give the patrons so freely.