River Forest Public Library River Forest Public Library

My public library – a place where I belong, by Jenn Meadows 

September is Library Card Sign up Month, a time to celebrate the impact and value of libraries. What better way to do that than to share how the library impacted one of our very own staff? Thanks to Jenn for sharing her story. 

I have always been obsessed with my local public library. I grew up in Indiana in a small town called Greensburg, where the library was a very special place for me. My parents noticed my love of reading early on in my life. Wanting to nurture this aptitude for words, they started taking me to our public library for story times and I became entranced by the children’s librarians. I decided I wanted to read every single book in the library and would sit for hours in the children’s room teaching myself (with a little help from mom and dad) to read.  

 My sixth birthday was one of my most memorable because I was finally able to get my very own library card. From that day on, I participated in every program the library offered for summer reading. Most summer mornings, I would wake up and wait for the library to finally open. Since it was small-town Indiana in the 90s, I would just ride my bike to the library myself. I would spend hours reading and reading, ending my day by checking out as many books as I could carry on my bike home.  

As a child, I really struggled with fitting in, but I found a place to belong at my local library. I would often chat with the children’s librarians and tell them all about my adventures. At home around the dinner table, I would share stories about the library and talk about the children’s librarians like they were my close friends. I was 9-years-old and I had already found my very own Cheers where everybody knew my name, and it was called the Greensburg-Decatur County Library.   

My love of libraries continued into young adulthood. My first job at sixteen was working as a page in the library. Now instead of attending the programs, I was helping make the magic of summer reading happen. From my summers at the library as a child, I knew the lay of the children’s room like it was the back of my hand while I was shelving. It felt like home. The librarians I worked with (Jill Pratt, Laura Jo Tebbe, and Lori Durbin) encouraged me throughout high school and undergrad. Thanks to them, I felt like I could accomplish anything. They propelled me from that job to my first job in public relations and marketing.   

I have been living in Chicago for 9 years now, a move that was also inspired through a book about Chicago that was given to me by a librarian.  While working my first job downtown in the Loop, I quickly got a card through my local library branch. You could find me every day on the L, my nose in a book. I made most of my friends in Chicago by joining different book clubs. While working from home during the early COVID-19 pandemic, I started to think about why I wasn’t satisfied professionally. I realized that I needed to come back to the library.  

Starting this job as a children’s room associate feels like a homecoming. My life has always been touched by the magic of libraries. Now that I am pursuing my MLIS at Dominican University to become a children’s librarian one day, I feel so lucky to be the one creating the magic of libraries for the kiddos of River Forest Public Library. I went from being that young girl who never missed a story time to being the adult in the room leading story time. Public libraries will always be a place where I feel like I belong.  

Jenn joined the Library in February of 2023.  She is currently pursuing her MLIS at Dominican University and concentrating on services for children. In her spare time, Jenn loves to be cozied up at home with her cats and a good book, or be out and about throughout Chicago enjoying live music.

The photo to the left is of Jenn at her first library job at the age of 16. Today, you’ll often find her leading our children’s crafting programs.

Jenn was recently selected by the Illinois Library Association, to present her paper Poster Session: From Satanic Panic to QAnon: Political Movements and Book Bans at the Illinois Library Association Annual Conference in October.