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For me, the library has been a place for me to read, escape and achieve. I grew up in Baltimore near a busy intersection that you might have seen. It was seen all over CNN back in 2015. A young man named Freddie Gray died in police custody and crowds of people took to the streets to protest.  Ground zero was the corner of North and Pennsylvania Avenues, where a CVS drug store burned as news choppers hovered and filmed the scene from above.  Just across the intersection is a branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, part of one of the oldest free public library systems in the US.    That branch has been there since I was a child about 60 years ago, and that intersection was a very different place.

The neighborhood had thriving schools, businesses and a movie theater. My parents owned a small grocery store a block away. The library was special place where the kids in the neighborhood could escape to air-conditioned comfort during summer vacation, listen to stories, and play games in the children’s reading section. Our summertime favorite was a summer reading contest, with a giant paper mountain where our individual progress was on display. My sister and I usually placed first or second in the race to the top of the mountain.

That library branch still stands. Our librarian, Ms. Bell, is long gone, and the hours are reduced from the old days. It’s harder to see inside because of the security grates obstructing the windows, but I’m so pleased that amid all the changes outside its walls, kids have a place to retreat and feel rewarded for loving books.

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