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The Power to Change

Local Libraries Change Lives and Need Your Support

Now that summer and festival season is upon us, there is always plenty to do on Nantucket. Less than two weeks ago, the Nantucket Film Festival took over the downtown area offering an array of activities and movies for islanders and visitors alike. In just more than a week, the Nantucket Comedy Festival will wash ashore with well known comics from across America.

But I personally keep going back to the Nantucket Book Festival. Not so much the writers or the specific events that were held throughout the three day event, but kind of an accidental theme that emerged throughout. It was: The importance of libraries.

We hear it all the time. Libraries are important, they need funding, they offer educational and entertaining programming for the whole family. But what we hear less often is that libraries have the real ability to shape people's lives. This point was driven home right from the get go at the festival's first headline event with novelist Dennis Lehane.

Expecting a talk about and a reading from his most recent book, I was surprised when he started off by talking about his childhood in South Boston and the singular impact that libraries had on his life. He was emphatic. "I am who I am today because of libraries," said Lehane.

He was born into a family without financial resources and his introduction into the world outside Southie came through the novels and other books he read. This resonated even more so because of a story I had just heard from Nantucket's own Annye Camara.

She also grew up in a family with little money, but at the age of five had the world open to her at her local library. Reading instilled in her a love for learning that eventually led to years in the publishing world and now as the owner of Annye's Whole Foods on Amelia Drive.

Deeply involved in the festival as the volunteer coordinator, Camara was ecstatic at Lehane's comments.

"I am really passionate about reading because when I was a child I was very smart, but I was from a very poor family. There were not a lot of paths open to me, but that changed when someone took me to the library at the age of five. I found out about a world I didn’t know existed and I found that my opportunities were actually unlimited. I want that for others, whether they are children or grown-ups.”

On Nantucket we are fortunate to have the library we have and a dedicated staff that commits countless hours to the institution. The Atheneum's executive director Molly Anderson could be seen during cheering Lehane on from her seat in the packed Unitarian Chapel.

Though Nantucket is a wealthy community, this library counts on fundraising, donations, used book sales and volunteers to function just as others do across the country. Think about your role. Volunteerism can be just as valuable as monetary donations. Take a look at their regular programming and special events. Decide what you can do.

Because books change minds, they heal wounds, they shape lives. And these are the rarest of abilities.