In Honor of: 
Johnson County Public Library
Mountain City, TN; United States of America
Why I Love My Library: 

If someone was to drive through eastern Tennessee, they would find lush green mountains blossoming with life, gurgling creeks singing through rocks and mountain bends, and a small mountain town bustling with school buses and trucks, cars and bicyclists. This town is Mountain City, a fitting name considering its surroundings. It is, for many, a retirement town and for others a place of both safety and confinement. It has been my family’s home for over a decade, which has proven to be a trial and a blessing over the years. It is also the home of the Johnson County Public Library, the library that has become dear to me over the last two years.
After graduating college in summer of 2013, I returned home with an English degree in one pocket and thousands of dollars worth of debt in the other. I was a post-graduate, an adult, an academic, a dreamer, and I had no earthly idea what I was going to do next. The problem was, the moment I returned home, the moment I realized my college years were complete, I had this strange sense that I didn’t know who I was, who I wanted to become, and how I’d get there. In a way, I’d come to a crossroads.
It was about this time that I began volunteering with the Johnson County Public Library. I’d worked briefly with the library the previous summer, helping where I could with the Scholastic Book Fair and the children’s Summer Reading Program. As the weeks passed, I grew more and more familiar with Linda Icenhour, the head librarian, and the rest of the library staff and volunteers. We became friends.
Every Thursday for a year, I worked the circulation desk. I shelved books and audios, spoke with patrons, read more books than imaginable, and learned just how valuable the library was to Johnson County. Every week without fail, patrons of all ages and income would stop by the circulation desk to simply speak with the library staff. They would pick up books and movies, of course, but often the real point of their visit was to share their stories with us, ask advice about some part of their lives, and spend a few moments laughing (sometimes crying) in our company. I don’t know when it happened, maybe from the very beginning, but, at some point, the Johnson County Public Library became more than a place to find books and do research; it became a place of fellowship and community--the heart of our county.
Over the weeks, I realized that although I was helping patrons locate and order their books, operate the computers, and select new titles and authors, they were also sharpening me, shaping me into a better, braver person, communicator, and friend. I never could’ve imagined how volunteering with the library would encourage and inspire me to be more, to dream more. I will always be grateful to the wonderful ladies at the library and the equally wonderful patrons.
Due to my current working schedule, I am no longer able to volunteer every Thursday. However, I make it a point to drop by the library on my days off to talk to Linda and the other library staff who have impacted my life in such a positive way by giving me courage through a tough and uncertain year.
So, in return for their kindness and unconditional encouragement, for the unforgettable moments I shared with patrons, I wanted to write a letter, expressing how grateful I am for the little things that have given me the strength to continue. I will always remember the laughter I’ve shared with staff and patrons alike, the smooth, almost aged feel of a well-loved paperback, the moments when my 5’4” height nearly foiled my attempts at shelving hardbacks on the top shelf, and the soft swoosh of the library’s front door on a rainy day.
In the end, writing my appreciation for the library is the least I can do, and I believe telling you why I love my library is something I needed to do. Because, well, in the ever-wise words of Linda—the Long-Reigning Empress of Books—those librarians are just a bunch of ‘fruit-loops’ and I dearly love them for it.