06 Feb Library for All
By Pooja Thakkar
2023 is the year of stories at Hamilton East Public Library. Every month on our blog, we’re featuring a guest writer from our community to share in their own words what the library means to them. We hope these stories will demonstrate that there’s something for everyone at the library, and you belong here.
Our February library story speaks about the library as a place of acceptance and connection for new immigrants, new parents, and people in all stages of life.
“Why buy a book when you can join a library?” – Ricky Gervais
New to America
“It’s now been 15 years since I came to the United States, where I have created a ‘home away from home’ in Indiana. I come from a very crowded family in India, with over 65 people in one household, and ended up arriving to the US with just one person, who was himself a complete stranger. The beauty of arranged marriage in India is that you dive in with all your trust and then explore, but that is a subject for another time.
As an immigrant trying to find her place in a new world, the library quickly became my go-to place. I spent endless hours, days, and months trying to get into the habit of reading to acclimate myself to my new home.
With my firstborn, I enjoyed many impromptu playdates at the library with new parents just like me. We could share and learn motherhood tactics from diverse cultures, while we were growing together. We laughed and shared jokes, accidents, embarrassments, and such to ease the stress of motherhood and start a new day. At the library, we experienced lots of firsts with my child: new foods, crawling, talking, and everything in the whole nine yards of toddler life.
Trust me, I love those days when I was reliving my childhood through the eyes of my first child and the many library programs, resources, and, especially, the amazing librarians (who I thought knew everything). Well, now I know how to find what I’m looking for; all you need is a curious mind and the ultimate trust.
My week was incomplete without a visit to the library. I attended endless storytimes, such as Tot Tunes to dance with my little lady, and participated in reading challenges. Special events during holidays and festivals were just amazing to bring joy to our little world when we didn’t know much about anything to begin with, for example Hedgehog storytime where we learned to love everything around us in springtime, Halloween celebration (thank god when people don’t mind knocking on someone’s door for trick or treat! It’s the absolute opposite in India where we used to spend more time with our neighbors than with our own siblings), Thanksgiving where we give thanks once a year and celebrate the belongingness, and Christmas which is the best time of the year. Thanks to all the great exposure through the various platforms at the library, we started our own tradition of making gingerbread houses with our girls and collecting warm things like socks, mittens, and hats to share Christmas blessings with people in need.
The Gift of Reading
After adding another sassy pants to our tribe, things got even easier, as if now we’re pros in this game. Storytimes, like Bear’s Sleepover, and book clubs are still our girls’ favorite things to do. And, when checking out those F-R-E-E books of their choice, it’s the pleasure I still remember in their eyes. Books make them happy, even today. We celebrated our daughter’s 5th birthday with a Book Birthday where we made a special request of our guests. In lieu of a boxed gift, please bring books to share with our avid reader and surprise the birthday girl Bhavya with books that have her favorite character, Little Mermaid, in them.
Before she even started walking, Bhavya always gave me many other reasons to find the cozy, comfortable environment at the library where we have been collecting memories to cherish over the years. Now, she is 11 years old and proudly volunteering at HEPL in the Teen Advisory Board with various projects to help support librarians and get them prepared for their own programs, like collecting acorns, getting craft packages ready, and reviewing unpublished books and young authors, to name a few.
Both of my girls finished their 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program and inspired many of their young friends to open up a library card as soon as they turn 5 (an absolutely magical year in our house).
Each passing year, while earning many free books through reading challenges, school book fairs, and the gift of reading, we added a significant number of books to our own collection in our little home library, from black-and-white and touch’n feel to sounds-and-senses. We passed down many books to friends and neighbors and even donated books to local hospitals.
More Than Books
In a true sense, the library is for everyone! It has helped me be kind and open and to help people even when you know they can’t help you back. In 2016, my dad visited me for the first time in the US. He knows very little English, a total shy personality (absolute opposite of me if you know me well!), and it’s very hard to make him start a conversation with you. Well, I asked him to come join me at my adult evening classes at the library where I love to go and just make some arts and crafts. This is what makes me happy after long work hours.
We made various projects together, and he loved the relaxed, fun environment where no one judges you about your race, region, or mastery of the skills. Everyone comes to make, take their craft home, and learn some new techniques along the way, while munching on some light refreshments. Even today, when I talk with him, while in my self-created busy world, he always reminds me to do your thing at the library to rejuvenate and relax a bit. He still admires the staff who were willing to help with no bias, providing continuous guidance to make our lives easier whether we needed something within the walls or to share some local resources outside.
The library gives hope to retain the humanity that we see slowly fading away behind social networking and makes a lasting memory of a lifetime that can even be passed along to our next generations.”
About Pooja Thakkar:
An active Miller Ambassador for the City of Noblesville and alumni and mentor for the University of Indianapolis, Pooja moved from Rajkot, Gujarat in India to Indiana in 2007 to live with her husband Harshit and her two girls, who are former Miss Indiana queens, Bhavya (11) and Navya (5). She has been a resident of Noblesville since 2011.
She works at First Merchants Bank as a Data Governance Analyst and serves as a board member for local non-profit organizations like Earth Charter Indiana and Keep Noblesville Beautiful to serve our community and to make Indiana sustainable.
This Girl Scout leader also loves camping, watching reality shows, and attending local music concerts.
Have your own library story to share? Tell us about it here, and we’ll pick a few to be featured on our blog! You can also find storytelling resources and tips here.
Read previous library stories: