Reading between the lines

Rather than just a place full of books, the library is a vibrant and important community center


Finn Corrigan

Pictured above is the Cole Library, which serves as a place for the Carlsbad community to gather and learn.

Community. Fewer words have such a loose yet impactful definition. Depending on who you ask, community can be a church, a school, a neighborhood, a family or anything that fosters collaboration and mutual care. In the city of Carlsbad, a large number of residents are inspired by a strong sense of community. There are many reasons for this, but one often overlooked institution plays a vital role in our community and the way we participate in it: the library.

The library is often written off, especially by teenagers, as a boring and archaic institution that has no relevance to their daily lives. However, the Carlsbad City Library (consisting of two branches, the Georgina Cole and the Dove, along with an additional learning center) provides many services for the community and students, often for free or a very low cost.

“Students may not be able to afford college prep classes, and the library offers those classes for those people,” junior Veeral Patel, who frequents the Dove branch, said. “Mrs. Stockhalper has a program that she’s connected to that lets students focus on SAT and ACT prep at a very low price because libraries don’t require them to pay for the [materials].”

In addition to those invaluable courses, the city library enriches the lives of local children during the summer. Historically, summer break has been catastrophic for the knowledge retention and learning of students, but the library aims to offset this through its “Summer Reading Adventure.” Although mostly children participate, the program is open to readers of all ages, including adults. This program incentivizes people to read over the summer and receive prizes for their efforts. 

“It involves the kids in the local community by allowing them to discover what books they truly enjoy and learn valuable social skills by talking to teenagers about what they have read,” junior and veteran library volunteer Kai Burke said.

As Burke described, the children also gain social experience from interacting with the teenage volunteers who help run the Summer Reading Adventure. Many of these volunteers formerly participated in the program which in turn inspired them to give back to the community and the library specifically.

“I used to do the summer reading programs when I was little but now I [volunteer] myself because I really enjoyed it as a kid,” senior Sophie Zane said. “I thought it was really cool when I was little to tell someone about my favorite book. It also made me look up to teenagers because I’d see them reading. I started doing it myself which is cool because I remember looking up to kids like that and then I got to become that person.”

Along with the reading programs, the city library also provides other opportunities for entertainment and education. The Dove branch frequently screens a variety of films, with titles ranging from unknown indies to beloved blockbusters. Zane, a four-year French student and dedicated Francophile, often takes advantage of the foreign film showings.

“I like going to the foreign films, which are really fun because there was one in French,” Zane said. “They had food there and there were other people you could talk to in French which was cool because you could make new friends and work on your target language if you are learning a language.”

The city library also functions as an important personal space and refuge for many of its patrons. It has served that purpose for Patel throughout his childhood and adolescence.

“When I was a kid, I wasn’t a very good English speaker because I had another native language,” Patel said. “It was difficult for me to stay at school and figure out how to speak English because my parents had a very tight schedule, and I couldn’t get a chance to learn. What libraries gave me was safety. There is nothing scary about it. When I went to the library, I understood that it’s a safe place. There were hundreds of families walking in and out each day with their children just like me and they were able to have the same experience of learning, the same experience of reading, and they were able to sit down without the toys, without the other distractions and actually focus on learning. The library in my community gave me the ability to learn because there was a tremendous amount of opportunities for me to better my English and at the same time it was a resource for everyone. Just because you’re not good at English, or even if you are, there’s always more to learn and the library has an endless stream of knowledge that you can’t really get from anywhere else.”

More than just books and computers, libraries are places where people can explore, gather and imagine.”

— Veeral Patel

For these students, the Carlsbad City Library is not a boring old building filled with boring old books; it is a dynamic and influential center in the lives of students and local residents. It provides countless vital services for people and, through its programs, helps maintain the vibrant sense of community Carlsbad residents have always cherished.

“While the generations are increasingly becoming digital, we see that the role of libraries in a community is very undervalued and occasionally under fire,” Patel said. “More than just books and computers, libraries are places where people can explore, gather and imagine. It adds value to the community because it serves as a cultural center. Libraries are places where people come to understand themselves and their community.”