Library association’s annual essay contest winners ponder libraries’ roles in America

First-place essay winner Riya Jehangir Stebleton rides in the July 4 parade. Photo by Kristal Leebrick

Each year the St. Anthony Park Library Association sponsors a patriotic essay contest for fifth-graders at St. Anthony Park Elementary School to coincide with the neighborhood’s annual Fourth of July parade and festivities.

The three winners of the annual contest are invited to read their essays at the opening ceremonies of the July 4 celebration in Langford Park. This year’s topic was “How do public libraries contribute to equality?”

The winners and their essays are printed below.



Libraries: The great equalizers

By Riya Jehangir Stebleton, first place

Did you know that there are more than 119,487 libraries in the United States? All of these libraries provide a sense of community. For example, at my neighborhood library on days that schools are closed, they organize a Lego day and anyone is welcome to play. Libraries also provide access to free books, study space, computers and internet. These resources are available for all to use.

First, libraries are for everyone. It does not matter if you are a man or woman, a girl or a boy, rich or poor. Your race and ethnicity does not matter, either; all are welcome. Libraries also form a common meeting place. People get to know each other and meet new people in their community. Some libraries have fundraisers and other fun activities. For example, my library offers a summer reading kickoff for children, as well as parent-and-child classes where families get to know each other.

Second, many families across the world and in the United States cannot afford to buy books. Libraries are a great opportunity for people to borrow books for free, read newspapers and magazines and use books to do research. At most libraries, library cards are free, too. You can learn a lot from reading books—reading changes how you think and opens up new worlds and ideas. When you read a book, you learn about different people and their perspectives. Books also allow readers to have empathy and understanding for the lives of diverse people across the world, which helps build equality.

Last, many people do not have access to computers or internet services. They may also need a place to study or work. Libraries provide great spaces to do just that! Most libraries provide workspace and computers. At my library, I see many older students studying and sometimes my parents get work done at the library, too.

So, you see, there are many ways that libraries contribute to equality. Libraries are places where people form community, they have access to free books and resources, plus, everyone is welcome. I think libraries are wonderful places and they help many people around the world.


‘Equality at a new level’

By Megan Kassebaum, second place

Libraries ensure equality in many ways. Libraries serve all ethnic groups, as well as users with different physical abilities and people from different socio-economic groups. The knowledge through books and other resources at the library gives anyone a better chance to advance. I will use our St. Anthony Park library to show how public libraries can support equality.

First, at the St. Anthony Park Public Library, books are in many different languages. Immigrants can learn English, and English speakers can learn a new language. The library is so much more than just books: There’s an English conversation circle, intro to computers and children’s storytelling programs.

Libraries are non-segregated, but it wasn’t always like that. In the movie “Hidden Figures,” one of the black NASA specialists tries to borrow a book on computer coding but the librarian tells her that that book was for whites only. In the end, she took the book and taught her coworkers how to code. This is an example of how a book can open up opportunities.

Libraries help different physical ability equality because they have ramps and elevators for people who use wheelchairs or who have trouble walking. Also, libraries are often located very close to a bus stop, so people who ride the bus can easily access the books. Blind library members can listen to audio books instead of reading; they also can feel the braille the library puts on the bathroom labels and the braille books.

A third way libraries promote equality is that libraries are open to all socio-economic groups. They keep the cost for the library cards very cheap and the cards last a long time. Instead of buying multiple books, you just pay once to have unlimited access to any kind of book. Libraries are a great place to get help, study in a quite environment, and if you get stuck, you can research what you need for almost completely free. Most public libraries have computers with internet that are open to all. People can study or access information on these public computers any time the library is open. People can learn skills they need, like using computers.

Libraries add to equality because they serve all ethnic groups, users with different physical abilities, and different socio economic groups. You can learn English at the library, there are ramps for people who use a wheelchair, and it costs very little to get a library card. Libraries are more than just books; they are equality at a new level.


How public libraries contribute to equality

By Scout Kruszka, third place

Public libraries greatly contribute to equality for many reasons. One of them is that when you walk into a public library, your age, gender, race, religion, and disabilities don’t matter. You all just want to borrow a book or a movie, use the resources or simply relax.

A public library always feels like—and is—a safe place for everyone.

Part of that is because of the librarians. All the librarians I’ve ever met are welcoming, kind and smart. Public libraries without librarians like the ones we have would be less fair, equal and safe. So not only do public libraries contribute to equality, but so do the librarians who are a part of them.

Also, public libraries have a lot of programs. The programs range from homework help and tutoring clubs for students to resume and job-search workshops for adults. There are also programs such as fitness classes for seniors and bilingual story time.

My point is that public libraries have a program or event for practically everyone, which is another way they contribute to equality.

Public libraries also encourage and contribute to equality in many other ways, such as how they have been working hard to promote equality, as well as creating more equal and diverse libraries (which they’ve been very successful at). And although I’ve only told you about a few of the reasons why public libraries contribute to equality, there are still many more to learn about.


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