Libraries can be many things. A place of learning. Of relaxation. Of belonging.
We teamed up with Austin's Library Foundation to collect people's stories about what libraries mean to them for a series called Library Love Stories.
In our last story, Kalena Powell tells the story of finding support throughout her life at her local library.
My mother was a beautiful but troubled woman. As a child my siblings and I went without some important things but reading, storytelling and singing were always present.
I fell in love with words. They were the gateway to my self-expression; they fed my curiosity and today my public library has become the center of my world.
I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. I was a defiant teen with a difficult home life but loved learning. I would frequently skip class to spend those hours reading (what I damn well wanted to read) in the school library. That happened frequently enough that I was sent to truancy court where the judge assigned community service.
I worked those hours at the Cody Branch of the San Antonio Public Library on De Zavala Road, just a few blocks from my childhood home.
As a young woman I chose to work full-time in bookstores and eventually, while pregnant with my daughter at the age of 27, I also picked up a part-time job at Round Rock Public Library in 2005.
I eventually left my jobs and decided to just be a mom for a while. My daughter and I established our own routine and love for words and I eventually volunteered as the children’s storytime lady at the Hutto Public Library in 2009 where we enjoyed cultivating that love together and with our community. That volunteer time and my Round Rock Public Library experience led to a part-time position at the Georgetown Public Library in 2013.
In the summer of 2014, my mother, who planted that seed of connection, curiosity and expression that grew into the path of my life, died from brain cancer.
I had the honor of writing her eulogy that would be shared among friends and family in the backyard of my childhood home. I walked the few blocks to the Cody Branch of the San Antonio Public Library to print the copy that I would read from to my loved ones.
Among that group were my coworkers from Georgetown Public Library where I still work today.
I am the Community Outreach Assistant at Georgetown Public Library. My primary role is scheduling and operating the bookmobile where we bring library services to those who cannot, due to whatever obstacle, get to the main library. I have been delivering “smiles for miles” and library materials since 2015.
Working for the library and living in Georgetown has given me my first true experience of community. It is a tremendous honor to empower people who are seeking, to engage people who are curious and to enlighten people who are open.
This library has supported me at my most vulnerable times and inspires me to keep learning, sharing and to fall in love with my world. I think my mom would be proud.