I was 9 years old when I signed up for my very first library card in Bluffton, Ind. With that card, my journey to adulthood and citizenship truly began. I was what would be described decades later as a "latchkey" kid. Our local public library was only a block away from my elementary school, so it was easy go to the library after school instead of straight home to an empty house with my siblings, waiting for our parents to get home from work. The public library was one place kids could go unattended by an adult a place of warmth, welcome, peace and safety.
What marvelous treasurers I found there! Some of the greatest figures in history were my "after-school chums" Amelia Earhart, Dolly Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and others. I acquired the joy of self-directed learning that will stay with me for the rest of my life. To this day, I value my library card every bit as much as my right to vote. I hold to the Jeffersonian idea that the foundation of a free society is an informed citizenry. After all, it is only the unfettered access to knowledge that can produce a meaningful vote in the first place. And there is nowhere better to gain that knowledge than our local public library.
This month, we saw the opening of a beautiful new library for the Town of Payson. As a member of the Library Friends of Payson, it was a privilege for me to help plan the grand opening ceremonies. As the doors opened, I gave silent thanks to the Bluffton Public Library. I saw traces of similar remembrances in the faces of those who attended the ceremony unspoken tributes to public libraries everywhere.
Our new library represents the best of our community's efforts in coming together for a common goal. It is something we can all take pride in for many years to come. And it will remain forever in the memory of those who use it today.
Thank you, Payson.