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September 24, 2017
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I park in spot 383.  The lot is empty, the rows of white lines perpetually unoccupied.  Tentatively, I step out, armed only with my empty PETA tote bag.  I lock the car and proceed forward, cloaked in the darkness of the garage.  I fumble with the parking meter, desperate to escape the uncertainty of the lot and cross the overpass to solitude.  My weekly excursion to the Broward County Library has begun. 
I step through the automatic doors, breathing in the welcoming fragrance of mildew, and gaze up at the six levels of past-peak ‘80s architecture.  The librarians smile at me, pleased to see that their young protege has yet again returned.  I open the list on my phone titled “books to read,” hoping to amass a few more.  After an hour of casually browsing, my bag is heavy and I leave, only to repeat my ritual a week later.
These miniature expeditions to the library have characterized my life for the past seventeen years.  They were originally instigated by my mother as a way to give us a foundation in reading that she never had.  Over a decade later, I continue them on my own, partially because I refuse to spend $16.99 on a book at Barnes & Noble, but primarily because amidst the cumulative nostalgia of mine and others’ pasts, I find the inspiration to learn more.
In many ways, the library gave me a sense of independence.  My strictly monitored upbringing was temporarily put on hold during the time I spent perusing the aisles.  Books couldn't be given PG-13 or R ratings, and resultantly, were all fair game.  My flimsy sex-ed came from the hours I spent hurriedly reading Forever, by Judy Blume, at age nine, and the controversial themes in John Green’s novels piqued my curiosity about the LGBTQ community, prompting me to become a liberal amongst a family of conservatives.  The glossy pages of the old issues of Vogue on the second floor bewitched me, cluing me into cultural phenomenons and instilling in me a (not at all shallow) love for fashion and obsession with celebrities. 
The years I spent as a volunteer forced me to adopt a premature maturity.  As my only company were the much-older librarians, I became an expert conversationalist at the age of twelve.  I passed my summers memorizing the Dewey Decimal System and lugging around carts of books heavier than I was.  I learned to be diligent when organizing genres, but warm and welcoming when directing visitors.  I became a fixed staple in the library, as it became one in me. 
Alas, as I have grown older, my library has grown out of style.  After funding was drastically cut a few years ago, and the kindle phenomenon left a void, the staff was downsized and hours were reduced.  The fountains on the first floor that were at one time majestic, are now empty, doomed to be eternally roped off with yellow “caution” tape.  The glass elevator that used to rise above a beautiful garden, now overlooks the gray monotony of unfinished construction projects. 
But while my library is becoming obsolete, my life is just beginning.  Libraries for me represent eternal hubs of knowledge and learning, but so do many other places.  I look forward to the myriad of opinions and experiences surely present in college, not to mention the plethora of Hogwarts-esque libraries I glimpsed during college tours.  Despite the uncertainties about my future, I know that there will always be more libraries for me to discover. 
And in them, myself.






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