The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library was built in 1976.
Jimmy Carter was just elected. Gas was $0.59 per gallon. Diana Ross, ABBA, and Barry Manilow topped the music charts while One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Rocky ruled the box office. In the year when Apple Computer Company was born, the current L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library was built to meet the needs of Eau Claire’s 50,000 residents. Over 40 years later, your public library operates in a building that was not designed to support the current 86,000 service population, the shifting role of public libraries, or the way in which technology has changed how we access information.
As a young refugee child living in Eau Claire in the 1980s, the library was our haven. It was a safe place filled with wonderful artifacts and comfortable chairs to sit in. My sisters and I would walk six blocks from our house to the library to get lost in the stories of a world we only saw in books. At first, we could not read so we looked at the pictures and used our own words to tell the story. This motivated me to learn how to read as I fingered each word pretending I knew what it said to me. As we approached intermediate and middle school, my sisters and I would run to the library often to read and check out books to bring home. Since we did not have many books of our own, the library allowed us to have a continuous supply of new books and stories to enjoy. My parents were thrilled that we were able to get books for free to use at home. We would play school with the books we checked out and pretend to be teachers reading to our younger siblings.
Years later, I would come to see the public library as the great equalizer for those who are marginalized in our community. Without the public library I would not have learned about the FAFSA and how to apply to college, without the library, I would not have had access to a computer so I could look up different colleges I wanted to apply to. Without the library and its vast store of books, I would not be able to read about becoming someone. Every community should have a vibrant public library to teach, to guide, and to lift the spirits of those who are less fortunate in our community.
Kaying Xiong, PhD
The library is a place for everyone. It is a resource for all sorts of people, especially lower-income people. . . . To some, the library is a building. But to others, it is a life-saving building.
We really like just being at the library browsing, seeing what new items are there to discover. It is a dedicated space for learning and trying new things.
For me, a library is more than “what it does,” it’s what it is. And the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library is nothing short of the lifeblood of our community. This is the place where great ideas are born. And it’s also the place where these great ideas grow into fruition.
B.J. HollarsLocal Writer and Director/Co-founder of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild