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A Letter to My Childhood Librarian

Dear Irit, 

Writing to you in English feels weird, but I think in English these days. I don’t know what made me think of you today. I meditated about kindness and happiness and the instruction was to focus on someone I admire and respect. Perhaps that was all I needed. 

It couldn’t have been easy running a small agricultural village’s library. I’m betting most adults in the village didn’t really read. Not that I would judge them for that. My generation was diagnosed with learning disabilities in alarming proportions. I don’t know the research, but to this day, I’m certain genetics played a role. 

Still, you insisted on stocking the library with children's and adult's books. Every book was reverently wrapped, armoured for the hoped-for frequent use. Every loan was documented in handwriting on the loan card, and the card was filed into the family’s envelope. I never once saw you asking names. You always knew which kid belonged to which family. 

I remember the haven the library was for me. Everywhere else, even in my bedroom, reading stories was frowned upon if not actively discouraged. I spent hours in the library reading to my brain’s content. You never minded that I picked up a book classified for “older children”, but going into the adult section was strictly forbidden. Years later, I understood why. Children shouldn’t know what kinds of books their parents read by recognising the cover. 

You also conducted the library’s Story Time. You sang songs and played the guitar. All the songs were stories, and each was a different performance. We soared on the strumming chords to a fantastic world, a fantasy world. You set my imagination roaming every time I talked to you. 

When I was a teenager, making my first steps into adulthood, you let me work at the library. I was a tween, and this was a dream made manifest. I learned how to wrap the books, draw the precise letters on a sticker that marked where each book belonged, and, later, fill out the loan card. In between, with your guidance, I read about heartbreak and joy, about family relations, about going away for school. You had a book recommendation for each drama I encountered in my adolescent life. 

So, thank you for persevering under challenging conditions and bringing the art of storytelling into my life. Thank you for giving me a haven where I could be myself. Thank you for setting my imagination free. Thank you for helping me feel less alone.  

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