Libraries are about people. They provide an open, inviting, safe, fun and inclusive public space for all. EPL welcomes everyone to learn, create, discover and grow. We are fortunate to be the public square that helps transform our city.
Below is an anonymous customer testimonial we received in 2015, in response to our year-end fundraising appeal. We were touched by this customer’s story and generosity, and very much wanted to share it.
I am so happy to make a donation to the Edmonton Public Library. I only wish it was more, but I am back at school and bit skint again.
I received my first library card when I was just six years old. It was the first place I took the bus to all by myself (back when a 6-year-old could ride the bus alone). My mother, newly divorced and a working student, was quite busy a lot of the time, I was on my own a lot and so travelled back and forth to the library after school several times a week. My older sister had friends and a membership with the Bookmobile, but I was extremely shy and preferred the library.
Fast forward to the tumultuous teenage years, when I wound up pregnant and had to drop out of high school, barely 15 years old. My mother was furious, my sister had moved away, my school didn't know what to make of it (to be fair, neither did my mom I suppose.) It was a very lonely isolated time, with no company aside from the doctor visit once a month. So, I took the bus to the library, different buses, different branches, and got to get a good look at the city. In the winter, I especially loved to spend an afternoon at a library browsing the shelves and reading in a sunny window. I read all about prenatal and childcare, as well as cooking and nutrition, knitting and sewing, household finance, organic gardening, even building toys, furniture and garden sheds! I only took a few books home but I would read them aloud to my swelling belly (because one book suggested a mother should read and sing to her unborn child.)
After she was born, in early winter, I still found myself lonely, isolated, broke and snowed in; still a shy confused teenager, ashamed (even though my daughter was amazing), terrified, overwhelmed, on social assistance and poverty stricken. When it seemed just like everything was closing in on me, I bundled her up and took the bus to the library. I discretely nursed her and read in a quiet sunny corner. When she got fussy, I hugged her close, patted her lightly, and paced in the aisles of books, reading the titles off the spines in a soft soothing whisper. It seemed to calm her right down. Maybe because it calmed me down too, I don't know.
I'd quietly read aloud to her whatever I was reading. And as she got a bit older, I'd find big colourful books to keep her amused. It was a particularly long dark cold winter that year. I'm sure some weeks we were at the library every day.
When she was about a year old, I went back to finish high school. We were still on social assistance, although I was better at being thrifty and resourceful. We never did get a television. Instead, I would pick her up from childcare after school and we'd stop at the downtown library several times a week. It was in the basement then, so no sunny windows, but in the winter it was already dark anyway. I remember there were animals (a hamster or gerbil, maybe, and a big, big lizard) that really fascinated her, and some toys and puzzles. I could do my homework, and she could look at books, play, and have space to move around (our apartment was so small!) all while being close enough to keep an eye on and interact with her. It was kind of a home away from home. I would let her choose something to take home and we would read them after her bath, before I tucked her into bed (just like the books told me to do!). Every few days she would collect what we had borrowed to return to the library. It was a routine little responsibility that she embraced at an early age. She started to recognize words by the time she was two and could read simple books to other children when she was three!
When I finally graduated from high school, she was four years old.
Then I had to go to work…as a waitress…still, I was happy and proud to have completed high school. But now I was much busier, with less time to spend, and getting to the library before closing was mostly out of the question. But every second Friday we would go have dinner out (which often involved going to a grocery for buns and cheese and fruit, but sometimes it was Spaghetti Factory or pizza) and then we'd hit the library for our supply of reading material.
From time to time, on the weekend, I couldn't find childcare and she would come to work with me for a part day shift, where she would read, play, do crafts, write little poems, colour and draw, help fold napkins, and generally hold her own in conversation. She had an amazing vocabulary for a child! I think back on how much I adored her and my heart just blooms.
She excelled throughout school, earning a baccalaureate and several scholarships, even though we couldn't afford to have a computer at home.
She is now in her third year of graduate school at university. Getting a PHD! I can hardly breathe when I think of it!
Sorry to brag on my daughter so much, it just that, I kind of credit the library for being a refuge and even, perhaps, saving us from a life of bitter ruin. Looking back, things could have turned out much different!
I am sure we are just two of many hundreds of thousands whose lives have been enhanced, if not in fact saved, by the fact that there was a library to go to.
As Edmonton continues to grow and change, the library’s role as an educational resource, an open and accessible meeting place, and a catalyst for transforming communities is more important than ever.