Libraries are havens of hope, learning and love

Josephine Justin, a former Charlotte Mecklenburg Library intern, student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and immigrant to the United States, shares the significance of libraries on  her life.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed reading. My earliest memories are those I’ve spent at the library. From dressing up as a bumblebee for a Halloween event to making many different arts and crafts projects with my mother, the library has always felt like a home away from home.  

Born in a seaside fishing town in Tamil Nadu, India, I moved to America with my family when I was a couple of months old. I’ve spent almost 19 years of my life moving from one state to another, from Colorado to New Jersey to Virginia to finally settling down in Charlotte, North Carolina. Each new place meant a new library card. 

The library wasn’t just a building to me as a child, it was a palace filled with endless worlds of stories and possibilities.  

As I grew older, the library became a place for me to not only check out books, but to study with my friends. I spent most days after high school at the South County Regional Library studying with my best friend in the teen area. While there may have been more moments of laughter than studying, I’ve always appreciated how the library caters to every season and stage in our lives.  

From reading Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco to Beloved by Toni Morrison, the books I’ve checked out at the library throughout my life have allowed me to step into different realities and become a more understanding and empathetic person 

Looking back at my childhood as an immigrant, I can see the important role the library played during those developmental years in providing a welcoming environment for my family and I in a new country.  

Every trip I’ve made back home to visit my relatives in India, my suitcases have been packed with books but on my trip this past summer I was able to utilize the library’s e-books. While I absolutely love my hometown in India, it is disheartening to see that many places in India do not have the same public library facilities that are in America. 

Recently, books I have borrowed from the library, such as A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, have allowed me to better understand my life as a minority in America caught in the middle of two drastically different cultures. In the future, I hope to be a part of creating a public library space in my hometown for people of all ages and backgrounds to discover new books and become lifelong learners 

If I were to visit all the towns I grew up in, I would have to stop by the libraries because of how many memories it would bring back. I’m thankful for my parents who have spent countless hours in these libraries with me and my brother.  Without my parents, I wouldn’t be the book lover I am today.  

Being a fall 2019 marketing and communications intern at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has been a full-circle experience for me because I get to give back to an institution that has given me so much.  

The columns in front of the Main Library building showcase quotes on reading and learning from famous people across time. On the first day of my internship, I read a quote on one column by John Grisham that said “The first thing my family did when we moved was join the local church. The second was to go to the library and get library cards.” As I moved from state to state over the past couple of years, this has been true for my family, too. 

The library is a haven where I have spent countless hours reading and spending time with the people I love. I know in the future, that wherever I go, the library will continue to be that for me.   

--

This blog was written and posted with permission by Josephine Justin, student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 

Do you or someone you know have a story of impact to share with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library? Please email our Marketing & Communications Specialist, Asha Ellison, at aellison@cmlibrary.org.