Sunday, February 26, 2012

Connections at Harlem's Library

From last week's posting. . .
Connection #6:
The last connection must wait for its own telling, next week.  My visit to the Harlem Branch Library was much too grand to begin its story here, at the end of an already lengthy line of connections.


The minute I stood on the library's steps, I felt its energy, its presence drawing me inside.  Libraries do that to me, fill me with such anticipation of what I will find -- books I'm searching for, and ones searching for me.  As I walked under the arched entrance,

into a large downstairs reading room, I felt embraced by history -- history dating back to 1826.

Harlem was still a remote village then. Eleven more years would go by before rail service connected it to New York City.  The community committed its own resources to supporting a library until 1909 when the New York Public Library incorporated it as one of its first branches.  Andrew Carnegie donated the money for the library's present building, which has been welcoming readers, like me, for 103 years.  It received a major renovation in 2004 but, thankfully, still feels old with. . .


arched windows inviting in the light

                                            wooden pews waiting for children's stories

marbled staircases leading readers onward

The librarian pointed me towards the poetry section where I found Langston Hughes, surrounded by a community of other African American voices -- 

Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm, Freedom Riders, segregated high school students in Arkansas, and more -- reminding us of their struggle and of our continued responsibilities to racial justice.

Before leaving the library, I sat alone at a small table in the children's section; the room quiet. I opened  The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes and skimmed poems from random chapters.  All too soon, it was time to go. I flipped hurriedly to the final chapter and found a poem, surprisingly, addressed -- to me.

To You

To sit and dream, to sit and read,
To sit and learn about the world
Outside our world of here and now---
     our problem world---
To dream of vast horizons of the soul
Through dreams made whole,
Unfettered free --- help me!
All you who are dreamers, too, 
Help me make our world anew;
I reach out my hand to you.  

In this world of connections, it is, also, addressed To You.


  1. What a beautiful library! Thank you for sharing,

  2. Nice to hear from you, Colleen! Yes, it IS beautiful; a place I plan to visit often.

  3. It sounds like a wonderful, friendly place. And, I love the poem written just for you.

  4. You and Lexi would like it! I found a children's book there -- Art From Her Heart about folk artist, Clementine Hunter, written by Kathy Whitehead. It's beautifully written and illustrated, and I love the message about how important it is to follow your passion. Maybe you could find a copy in your local library.


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