Thea Montanez

I have a confession to make. I’m obsessed with libraries. That’s right. I am truly, madly and deeply in love with libraries. I believe librarians are the coolest people on the planet and contrary to popular belief, it’s your library card that you can’t leave home without.  Not your American Express. With all that being said, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t always feel this way.

After graduating from college, I suffered for almost ten years from a common but under-treated social condition known as Libramnesia. Individuals suffering from Libramnesia completely forget about libraries or even worse, believe libraries are irrelevant. My particular condition was a physical reaction caused by the countless overnighters I spent on the first floor of Byrd Library throughout my four years at Syracuse. Once I handed in the last paper of my college career, I did not step foot into a library again until nearly a decade later.

My first visit back to the library was prompted by another debilitating condition I was also suffering from at the time called unemployment. I was unemployed and needed a book. Up until then, if I wanted a book I bought one. Given my jobless state of being, I decided I could no longer afford the luxury of shopping for books at Barnes and Nobles. It was then, when I needed access to information that I otherwise could not access on my own, did I regain my memory.

The thing that struck me immediately upon my return to my local library was how much the library had changed from how I remembered it. No longer was I limited to borrowing books and DVD’s. Now I could register to learn computer software skills or resume building techniques. In addition, there were opportunities for me to attend forums on topics impacting my community and participate in dialogues with my public officials. I couldn’t help but also notice librarians were no longer wearing buns in their hair. Instead, they wore beautiful smiles that represented the diversity of my community. Despite all of the new additions, one very important thing remained the same – library programs were still free!

Fast forward to today and I’m proud to say I serve as President of the Board of Directors for one of the country’s most innovative urban public libraries – Hartford Public Library. In my dual role as a library board trustee and Libramnesia survivor, I recently headed to Chicago for a librarianship double header – the American Library Association’s Annual Conference and the Urban Library Council’s Annual Forum. During my time at the conference I met with incredibly smart and passionate men and women from around the country that all shared an unbreakable commitment to their respective library communities.

Fortunately, for me, I recovered and regained my memory and appreciation for the awesomeness that is our public library system; however, there are still those among us that continue to suffer. The worst case of Libramnesia was recently identified in Miami, FL., where Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s brain was completely attacked by the disease. The Mayor of the city with the second highest income inequality of any large county in the country made the decision to close 22 libraries and layoff 251 employees in an effort to avoid increasing property taxes. In his fragile condition, the Mayor was quoted as saying  “the age of the library is probably ending.”  To learn why this is the most inaccurate statement ever, please visit ilovelibraries.org.  In the meantime, let’s pray for the residents of Miami-Dade that Mayor Gimenez makes a speedy recovery.

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