The little girl reminded me of myself.

Last week, I visited the Powhatan County Public Library to talk to library director Whitney Berriman about September being Library Card Sign-Up Month. Both as a writer and an avid reader, promoting literacy has always been a goal of mine, so is it any wonder I would consider this month so important?

When I arrived, the library parking lot was more than half full of cars, and, as I stepped inside, I saw a large number of parents and young children stepping out of the children’s area, where they had attended storytime.

Among the group was a woman named Lauren Patterson and her two daughters, Poppy, 2, and Joie, 6. They headed over to the checkout counter and Lauren started taking books out of a tote bag and putting them on the counter. Poppy, who was barely tall enough to see over the counter, reached over one by one and started putting them in the return book slot. With Lauren’s permission, I shot a few quick photos to go with a library card story and talked to her about how much they love the library.

Of course, the smile on my face as I took that photo was partially because she is a very cute little girl. But the moment also carried a sense of nostalgia as I listened to Lauren talk about how much Poppy likes reading books of all kinds, whether it’s princesses or dinosaurs.

Growing up, my mom made sure I had tons of books to read. The teacher let me read or file papers if I finished my work early to avoid disrupting the other students. If we were on a car ride at night and I didn’t have a flashlight, I was holding the book up to see by the light of the cars behind me. Many is the night I used a hidden light to read a little longer. My appetite for books was insatiable.

Some of the books my parents bought for me, and some once belonged to other family members. But as much as I loved to read, I probably could have put a serious hole in the family’s monthly budget if my parents had tried to buy every book I wanted to read to own at home.

Our saving grace was the public library system. When I was a kid, the library was one of our favorite haunts. I would take home piles of books on every subject imaginable and devour them. According to her, the biggest problem was the library setting limits on how many books I could check out. If I had a checkout limit, you can bet I met it.

(On a side note, check out the announcement from the library that they are increasing their borrowed item limit per cardholder to 50 items on page 4. Whether you are a voracious reader or checking out books for a whole family, it’s great to hear people can check out more items).

As I have grown up, whenever I moved to a new place, one of the first things I did was check out the local library and apply for a library card. Even when I studied abroad in England, I had a library card. The resources they offer are invaluable no matter how old you are.

Just think about what the Powhatan Library offers even beyond the books, movies, CDs, and magazines on the shelves. Organizers plan storytimes, a teen group, ongoing activities, special events, performances, and an awesome summer reading program. They also have a program geared specifically toward being inclusive of special needs.

For adults, they offer electronic resources, instructional classes, Bingo, movie nights, educational programs, and free internet in a county that frankly has a long way to go in that regard.

I’ve advocated libraries and library cards in the past, and, if I am being honest, it is 99.9 percent sure it will happen again in the future. That all boils down to having an ingrained belief that libraries and the opportunities they offer have the potential to change lives.

I have seen the lifelong impacts a deficit in literacy can have on a person and their future, and it is wonderful to think institutions like our schools and our local library are doing what they can to improve our minds, our outlooks, and our opportunities to be active parts of the community.

And did I mention library cards are free?

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

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