I love libraries. I've been a reader all my life, and libraries have been a constant source of joy and a lifeline for me in times of need.
When I first learned to read I spent a lot of time in the library of my elementary school, trying to reason out unfamiliar words and checking out books too advanced for me.
My childhood library was built over the Cedar River in Renton, and was both an incredible building and an incredible library. The floor space made it feel spacious and the decorations changed with the seasons. Walking into the library I could swing on the railing outside and stare down at the water flowing under. As we left I would clutch my books tightly with the slight terror that I'd accidentally drop them into the river.
At middle school the library became my refuge. I wasn't good at socializing, so I retreated to the library during lunch hour and read the entire science fiction section in my two years there. Those books were as precious to me as the finest gemstones and the librarian was a guardian and friend.
My high school library was sadly lacking, but as a family we would go to the nearest branch of the King County Library System to get our books, one of the largest and best library systems in the United States.
I spent time doing research at the University of Washington libraries while still in high school. I could've spent months there reading and never gotten through a single floor of a single building. I didn't attend college classes at UW but those libraries were still a valuable resource.
I adored the library at Western Washington University. I think I took the freshman library tour three times just to make sure I had the building's layout memorized. The university still had a card catalog while I attended but the system was computerized just as I graduated and it became dramatically easier to find items in the collection.
The libraries in the Lower Valley are also excellent. I can't tell you how many times the Sunnyside branch of the Yakima Valley Libraries has managed to find a rare book for me through interlibrary loan. At times the system has purchased a book I put on request. Every branch I've visited has had helpful staff.
I recently visited the Grandview library for the first time. It's an impressive building with a decent collection and room to expand in the future.
Libraries today are event centers and communication hubs. For people who do not have computers or access to the internet, a library can open up the online world. Libraries loan out movies and music as well as books, and hold collections of reference materials that you cannot get online. Libraries hold frequent public events and have meeting spaces.
When I read about library closures in other parts of the country, I mourn the loss for the people there of one of the best resources available to the average citizen. And I thank my lucky stars I'm living in a place that still supports its library system.