It’s summer. Maybe you think about swimming or cooking out. Or you might be more concerned with the chore of mowing or the threat of sunburn and mosquito bites. Perhaps you’re looking for something different to do this year—how about a summer reading program at the library?

Many might associate trips to the library with cooler weather during the school year. But when I was growing up we were there all the time as my whole family have always been avid readers. I walk to the library all the time in Bloomington and if I’m stuck inside for a while due to bad weather or being sick, usually the first place I go once I can get out is to the library.

Once I had a friend come over to play when my mom and I were leaving to go to the library and my friend mentioned she had never been there. We were surprised—how was such a thing possible?! My mom called her mom to make sure she could come with us because we knew how important it was to introduce her to this resource.

When my mom moved to Greenfield in 1962, one of the first questions she asked my dad was to make sure that Greenfield had a library. She served on the library board for many years and participated in getting the facility built on Broadway next to the high school in the 80s, at which point the library moved from the old Carnegie building.

This is where the restaurant Carnegie’s now resides. I am so tempted to sneak into their kitchen upstairs so that I can see the children’s section where I spent so much time as a kid. I used to try to make myself as small and quiet as possible in the hopes of being left there. Maybe not overnight, as that would have been scary, but just for a few hours until someone noticed I didn’t show up for dinner.

I also have the library to thank for the unique spelling of my nickname. When I was a precocious six-year-old, I decided I needed a library card in my own name. The head librarian had a good sense of humor because she agreed, under the condition that I could fit my name in the small space in the card in the back of the book. (This was in the Age of Paper when everything was done by hand.)

I practiced trying to get “Stephanie Haines” into such a small space but all I could fit was “Stef H.” She decided this was sufficient and I was issued my own card, which I used proudly. That is why even to this day I spell Stephanie with a “ph” and Stef with an “f.” It had led to much confusion over the years but the corresponding amusing story has made up for that.

As I got older, I appreciated that there was a section for college bound reading, which meant I didn’t have to hunt for classics because they were all there in one spot. I didn’t have to put together reading lists; I’d just go to that section and keep working my way through those shelves. But still one of the coolest things about the Hancock County library is the stuffed owl in the children’s section.

The library in Greenfield has grown each time it has moved, and it now provides countywide service of multi-media products. The Friends of the Library sale raises money for library programs, and gives you an opportunity to donate books, movies, and music that you no longer use. There are meeting rooms and programs for both children and adults. A library is truly an asset to any community.

My sister and brother-in-law got a chance to travel to Rwanda a few years ago on a Fulbright grant to set up the first national library in that country. They felt so honored to be chosen for the task. They understood the significance of a library to bring unity and healing to this country with such a tragic recent past. They were excited to participate in bringing an opportunity for learning to those who had never had access to free books.

My sister wrote a blog about their experiences (“A Blog Called Rwanda”) and this quote from Andrew Carnegie is prominently featured, which sums up why we need to support libraries: “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”