Libraries are often where a child is introduced to the transformative power of literature. It is a place where a child not only falls in love with reading, but also a hidden oasis where their true lifelong passions are revealed. We recently interviewed Bri Webber who is the Young Adult Librarian for Los Angeles Public Library to learn more about her journey within the library system.
The public library made me who I am today.
Bri discovered her love of reading and libraries as a kid. Growing up, she would often watch her parents indulge in a great book and thus sparked her love of reading from the great example they displayed. “Positive reading role models matter in the life of a child,” says Webber, “My parents are avid readers who enjoyed trips to the library to let me explore and find my own love of reading.” A smile gleams across Webber’s face as she recalls the librarians that became like family to her as a child because of the frequent trips to the public library. “I wouldn’t be who I am today if my parents didn’t take me to the library growing up. The library I went to as a child ironically became the same library where my career began upon graduation. I ended up working with the librarians that helped me form my love for reading…WOW!”
The library is a learning center.
For more than 13 years as a librarian, Webber has seen firsthand the critical importance of libraries within a community. Young children and teens have called on her to help with many topics ranging from mentoring, college prep, mental health resources, and so much more. “There was a young girl that would visit the library for nearly 5 years with her grandmother. Every day she would come to the children’s counter and tell me about what she learned in school, an award she received, and even seek advice on homework or life lessons,” says Webber.
Webber also participates in a mentoring program that provides local students interested in becoming a librarian an opportunity to get experience in their field of interest. Each student is tasked with completing a capstone project that could positively impact their community. The most recent student mentee that Webber collaborated with created a programming series aimed at providing people with self-help resources during the pandemic. Why is a mentoring program like this so important, especially for Black and Brown students? One word: representation. “It’s important that kids see people that look like them at their local library. One of the main reasons I decided to work at the same neighborhood library that I visited as a kid was to be an example for kids in the community. Representation matters. When they visit the library, they should see people that look like and understand them,” says Webber.
The library is a place of refuge for the community.
Reading a good book has the power to help you for a moment transcend current circumstances. “Books are really important, they help cultivate conversations and vocabulary. You can use them as a refuge as you go through hard times.” There was a teen that would often visit Webber at the library. It wasn’t long after meeting him that she realized that he and his family were experiencing homelessness and came to the library as a place of refuge. Throughout his time at the library, he and Webber would talk about literature and his interests in school. As time progressed, a once reluctant reader quickly became an avid reader who even started suggesting books for Webber to read. “Libraries are transformative. Yes we have an amazing array of books and resources, but at its core, a library is a community center,” says Webber. “It’s my goal to help kids in the community. To connect with them and provide whatever they need. Yes I do the normal librarian things, but it’s really the personal connection that matters the most and why I love what I do.”
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