Libraries are vital to our Santa Monica community. My first job ever was as a library page in a public library, shelving books. To this day, my first job at the library remains the best job I ever had. My library colleagues (professional librarians) were dedicated people who were genuinely interested in helping the public obtain the information, introducing library patrons to resources, and providing helpful suggestions.

My family came to the US as immigrants, and we were poor. When we were children, my mother took us to the library weekly (and more often as needed for special school assignments). My siblings and I would always excitedly comb the shelves to select out the books that would constitute our “maximum” allowance of books that we could check out per library policy. As I child, I resented the “maximum” number of books policy.

Reflecting back, I now appreciate the subtle benefits of the library policy because it challenged me to read the books faster and created an incentive to have my books read by the next regularly scheduled library visit.

The public library helped create a more level playing field for my family. We did not have the means to have our own encyclopedia set (this was pre-internet times) that my classmates had at their homes. My parents could not afford the Kaplan SAT and ACT college prep classes that more privileged income classmates were attending. The library provided a safe space and refuge for studying away from the chaos and loudness of our crowded and less than tranquil home. The library played an important role in our academic success, including my sister graduating as the high school valedictorian.

As a practicing attorney, my greatest fear in practicing law is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I mitigate that fear by learning as much as I can about the subject. Librarians may not necessarily know the answer to all your questions, but I have consistently found that librarians will direct you to resources and introduce you to resources that you did not know were available. From every experience I have had with our fine SM librarians, it’s evident that librarians love their jobs because they genuinely relish in assisting others to share their wealth of knowledge.

Like many families in Santa Monica, we bought our home in Santa Monica as new parents because of our newborn child. I looked forward to creating a tradition of walking my child to the library every weekend, watching her excitement as she exercises her agency in selecting for herself books, introducing her to the same books that I read as a child, and experiencing the warm memories and joys of the library all over again through her eyes.

Remember, the budget the City approves on June 22 won’t just impact library access in 2021, it will also impact library access in 2022, 2023, and beyond! I ask the City to please take the necessary steps and refund the Santa Monica Public Library system, restaff our libraries, and reopen the closed branches to whatever extent possible.

Hien Nguyen, Email or contact @SaveSMLibrary1 for more information.