Why I joined the fight to save my local library
By Deepa Nirmal, senior training & development consultant, RBC Wealth Management-U.S.
As a child growing up in India, it was rare that I got to see the inside of a library. In those bustling large cities, library facilities were - and still are - few and far between.
In 1999, when I moved to St. Paul, Minn., I could not believe the remarkable library system available to everyone. With all the books, videos, computers, creative activities, storytime for children and so much more, the resources seemed endless to me.
In 2009, a lack of funds threatened my local library branch with closure. That library branch, built in 1930, serves a vibrant and diverse urban community with a large immigrant representation, and the loss of the library would've had far-reaching effects. I joined the Hamline Midway Library Association with other passionate library lovers, and together we embarked on an advocacy campaign. We roped in neighbors and library patrons, wrote passionate letters to the mayor and the city council, organized book and art sales and a charity run, and set up a Facebook page.
Libraries are the center of our communities
The goal of all of those efforts was to demonstrate in ways large and small what an integral part of the community the library was. We succeeded. Twelve years later, the branch is going strong. I still go to the library at least once a week, have volunteered at the branch on a regular basis, and in 2021 took my involvement a step further by joining the Board of Trustees of The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library. I was invited to join because of my past involvement with the library, but also because RBC, like me, recognizes the importance of a strong library system and is a major donor to the organization.
For me, libraries are like drinking water. While much of the world thirsts for clean water, in the United States we flush our toilets with it. When we take our clean water for granted and stop paying attention, tragedies inevitably result.
Similarly, when we stop investing in our libraries, we remove the safe spaces for our youth to develop their passions and build skills, for our immigrants to learn English and apply for jobs, for our toddlers to share storytime, for our seniors to do chair yoga. We lose our best tools to fight disinformation and ignorance, which can threaten the very foundations of our democracy. In this way, I truly believe libraries are the palaces of the people.
A love of books—at home and at work
Beyond the library, my passion for books has translated into founding my neighborhood's book club in 2009. Additionally, I serve in a leadership role with an RBC Wealth Management-U.S. employee resource group that supports employees of different cultures, and in that role, I lead our employee book clubs. We've read and discussed diverse books such as The Hate U Give and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Our next book club feature will be Hood Feminism, and we'll be joined by author Mikki Kendall.
Through these efforts, in addition to my new role with the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, I hope to continue the advocacy work that I started 12 years ago. Libraries provide such important community service, and they deserve to be celebrated.
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