Somehow I knew the library had the answer

I placed my hand on the door, not sure of what I was looking for, but somehow I knew that the library had the answer. After 1,700 miles and three days of driving I had arrived in the city I would call home: Madison, Wisconsin. I had moved across the country, away from all sense of community and family that I had known, so that someone I love could pursue their dream of graduate studies. I came to Wisconsin with the intent of adding to my undergraduate degree by studying secondary science education, and found much more.

I pulled open the door to the Sequoya Branch library and realized I had found a place that would make Madison feel like home. The library was a place where I could research my intended career. It was a place I could search for recipes, novels, travel books, attend public programs, meet new people, and gain a sense of community. It was the place I discovered a new passion in life and where I realized my true career calling.

As an undergraduate student I studied environmental science and engineering. I chose environmental studies based on observations from my childhood. My parents moved our family to a more rural area and over the following years witnessed an overcrowding of new housing developments that lead to environmental degradation. My undergraduate studies in these areas helped me realize that the strength of an effective environmental policy was environmental education of the general public. From this realization I explored the possibility of teaching science in a public school.

After moving to Madison, I became an AmeriCorps member with the Partners for After School Success program. I used this opportunity to gain experience with youth before committing to a graduate education program. Over the year in AmeriCorps I found working with youth and community members was a fulfilling experience, however, in my conversations with youth discovered that a substantial amount of their learning was outside of the classroom in environments of abundant possibilities and free of expectations. Working with youth and communities has instilled the importance of environments where people can congregate and learn at their own pace with their own motivations.

While working as an AmeriCorps member and with the YMCA of Dane County I continued frequent use of public libraries. By now I had realized that my original intent of becoming a secondary science educator was no longer an optimal fit for me. My interests in youth and community development, creating learning environments with unlimited possibilities, and a quest for personal and societal knowledge suggested an alternative career path.

The abundant resources available through the public library system have enriched my life and provided a superb environment for community and youth learning. The possibilities of the library environment for youth and community development are endless and speak to my interests. Based on my observations, experiences, and frequent use of the public library system, I realized my goal of becoming a youth program and community developer in a public library system.

--Chelsea Leachman, Madison Public Library (05/10)