Lenny Collado. Photo: Beowulf SheehanI went to the Library nearly every day after school growing up. Without the Library, I wouldn’t be where I am today — a college graduate and one of the first members of my family to go to college.
Hamilton Fish Library on the Lower East Side, in particular, was important to me, and most of my education happened there. It served as an alternative to after-school programs that were strict and procedural. The more laid-back atmosphere at the Library encouraged the same principles without being so restrictive, so going there was fun instead.
There were, and still are, an abundant amount of resources offered at the Library that I recognized at an early age to use for reference, research, and to keep myself informed overall. The Library provided not only a place to do school assignments, but also to keep in tune with current events and media. I especially enjoyed the fact that the Library was accessible. I had the ability to borrow items from one neighborhood library and return those items at another neighborhood library within NYPL’s system.
Maybe surprisingly, the Library also served as a place to socialize, meet friends, and get to know older adults, such as librarians, who related to me and were friendly as well. I found mentorship simply by interacting with the librarians who were attentive and helpful regarding my questions and opinions.
Alternatively, I also saw the Library as a quiet retreat for clarity, a place where I could sit and concentrate on what I had to do.
Throughout the years, I observed that steps were taken at the neighborhood libraries to expand programs offered to various age groups, from adult English classes for Speakers of Other Languages to children’s workshops for teaching drawing and creative writing, such as the Write Now! program at Hamilton Fish Park Library, which became a primary feature for me.
Those resources, along with many other essential programs and services, will be greatly curtailed under the city’s $40 million funding cut to the Library.
The coordinator for the Write Now! program at Hamilton Fish Park Library, Lois Stavsky, an art curator and writer, also helped my brother, Endi Collado, show his art work for the first time in an exhibition at the Library in 2009.
Today, Lois and I help coordinate a new writers’ club for teens at Grand Central Library, called Voices from Teen Central, along with other Library staff, such as my mentor and friend, Librarian Rodger Taylor — who I got to know growing up at Hamilton Fish Park Library — and writer Fred Jerome. Voices at Teen Central assists teen writers in exercising their creative writing skills by having them produce works of poetry, editorials, and recently, interviews. When the pieces are edited, we bring them together in weekly newsletters, which are presented on the Grand Central Library’s website and on the club’s blog.
Since I joined the club this spring, it has been an exciting experience for me. Now I’m able to mentor other young people at the Library, just as the librarians and staff at Hamilton Fish Park Library mentored me.
It's safe to say that I am where I am today thanks to the Library. My intellectual and creative work was supported very much by my time at the Library. It allowed me to be an engaged and informed citizen—and now is giving me an avenue to share what I learned.
Please join Lenny Collado and other NYPL users in speaking out against these crippling cuts, which would close up to 12 neighborhood libraries and reduce others to just four days per week. It takes just a few clicks to send a letter to your elected officials urging them to restore funding. Help save libraries!