(Photos courtesy Saint Paul Public Library)
I have lived in Saint Paul most of my life, and I’d say my favorite place in Saint Paul is the St. Anthony Park Public Library. With its many shelves and millions of stories, each one unique, each one special in its own way, there is no place like it in the world. I love going to the library after school for hours on end, looking at the books.
The St. Anthony Park Library is unique because of its architecture. The original library, now the adult-teen section, was part of a Carnegie Library built in 1917. It has been updated, and a children’s section, built in the shape of a large dome, was attached to the old building. When I was little, I thought the library used to be a church because it was so fancy and so old.
The St. Anthony Park Library in the 1920s.
On Mondays, instead of walking home from school, I walk to the St. Anthony Park Library. I eagerly climb up the double stairway, looking forward to the books I’ll find when I open the door. I go inside, take a sip of water from the water fountain, dump my backpack on a window seat, and start looking for good books. I know where all of my favorite books are. I have many memories of just sitting there, book in hand, nose glued in stories of fantasy, adventure, and science fiction. The library is within walking distance of my house, but I rarely walk home from it because I usually have checked out a bagful of books. I call home to get picked up.
The St. Anthony Park Library is warm and friendly because of its librarians. They aren’t just people who work there; they are people who love and care about the books, and this makes all the difference. They help me find books that are playing hide and seek with me, and they recommend books they think I might enjoy.
A luxury of the Saint Paul Public Library is that it has a very effective hold system. I can just go online, sign in using my PIN number and the number on my library card, and I can put any book on hold that is in any of the branches of the library system. When the book and I are ready, I can just go and pick it up. It’s very efficient.
An Asian Fair held at St. Anthony Park Library in the 1950s.
A year ago, I went to Namibia, a country in Africa with no public library. What I missed the most there, aside from friends, was having books. There were a few private libraries, but they weren’t well stocked. There were a few bookstores, but they didn’t have many books at my reading level that I hadn’t already read. I missed my library so much. Sometimes I would just daydream of walking into the library and checking out “old friends” and books I’d never seen before. Late at night, I would quiz myself about where my favorite books were in the St. Anthony Park Library.
When we returned after more than a year of being away from the library, I dramatically forced my mom to drive through the freezing winter winds to my much-missed St. Anthony Public Library. I was so happy! Books again! Mom thinks we checked out about twenty-five books; I think we checked out more.
To me, a good library feels as important as water and an exciting book feels like air. To me, the St. Anthony Park library feels like home.
Maxine Lightfoot was born in Indiana, and her full name is Maxine Indiana Lightfoot. She lives in Saint Paul and attends St. Anthony Park Elementary School. Her favorite color is turquoise, and if she had three wishes, they would be world peace, no animals would become extinct, and mosquitos wouldn’t bite. She is the oldest child in her family.
The Saint Paul Almanac partners with the Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library, a private, nonprofit, membership organization established in 1945 to support the Saint Paul Public Library. Today, The Friends boasts a membership of close to 3,000 individuals. The Friends’ mission is to increase the use of the Library through public awareness and cultural programming; to advocate for strong public funding of the Library; and to provide private funding to enhance Library services. Through this work, The Friends serves as a national model for its unique, comprehensive support of the Saint Paul Public Library. www.thefriends.org