Creating Community One Book at a Time

Nestled at picnic tables, sunglasses and hats atop heads, and water bottles at our sides, the kids and I gather with others for summer storytime in the park. In the center of the pavilion seated atop a table, Mr. Greg welcomes the families one by one. I watch friends from school run to each other with a hug, and toddlers cling to their mother’s legs. A few picture books sit atop the table along with a pile of crayon boxes and construction paper.

I recognize most faces from the pool, school, or from walks around town. But one week, a new family arrives, a mother and three boys. We nod and say hello in passing and soon story time starts. We’re all transported into the books through words and songs.

Fast forward a few weeks later and the kids and I are back at the library, this time inside checking out books and playing on the computers. My son plops himself in the aisles between Lego books and all things bugs and reptiles. A pile of books sits next to him as he flips the pages, his eyes mesmerized as he turns to me, “Come look, Mama!”

The mother and three boys are at the library again, but this time I walk over and say hello. We share a bit of small talk about books and what our kids are reading, how many prizes they’ve gotten from the toy bin, and how grateful we are for this place in our town. “Are you from Cole Camp?” I ask.

“No, we just moved here.” she tells me.

And then we share our names and I ask if it’d be okay to exchange numbers and connect more in the coming weeks. I’ve been the new one to town before and know what it’s like maneuvering the intricacies of a new place and school and community. I’ve been lonely before and take this chance to welcome. When we are ready to leave the library we pack up all our books, but we also are leaving with new friends. Over the next few weeks, our families see each other again at storytime and we call each other by name. We meet at the library and the park sharing about our lives and delighting in the friendship between our kids.

More time passes and we meet other friends at the library. One invitation leads to another, and now, over two years later, we have a group that gathers weekly to care, pray and share the joy and tension of raising children. What started as a love of stories and libraries has deepened into a rich friendship for many.

And this is the gift of libraries — they introduce you to both faraway people and places through the stories you read, and connect you with the people next door.

// I wrote this essay for the 70th anniversary of the Boonslick Regional Library. Cole Camp is so lucky to have a local library in town! I received 2nd place, but really, feel like such a winner thanks to all the friends I've met along the way. Our neighbor won the contest with this beautiful essay