A library is a place whose shelves are filled top to bottom with stories—stories of bravery, love, tragedy and triumph. Sometimes a library is a place about which a love story is written too.
Once upon a time, there was one such love story written about our own Wilton Library. It came in the form of a love letter, written by a graduating Wilton High School senior, to tell the people who work there exactly what the library has meant to her before she headed off to college.
Dear Wilton Library,
I owe so much to you. My passions, my personality, my being is due to you. I loved reading since I was a little girl. My mom—bless her heart—brought me here every week. It began with finding books I wanted her to read to me, but soon enough I was curled up with books and hot coco all to myself.
The librarians here gave me Matilda, the most influential book I’ve ever read. I was in awe of her. A small girl whose mind was her greatest asset; which welcomed me into a greater dedication to the literary world. I read three books a week. They were all Roald Dahl kids books, but a feat nonetheless. All through elementary, middle and a bit of high school I maintained my fervor.
But I grew up. I abandoned my love. I left it behind to chase popular shows and play mind-numbing games. I had almost forgotten.
I had almost forgotten the kind librarians who told me what to look for. I had almost forgotten how high I stretched my tiny body to reach the novels (and the little jump I did when that wasn’t enough). I had almost forgotten how I carried half my body weight in volumes over to the check-out counter. I had almost forgotten my greatest asset.
Last night I saw “Matilda” on Broadway.
And I remembered.
With love and gratitude,
Meredith Morello sent that letter to Wilton Library staffers in the beginning of June, shortly before she graduated from Wilton High School. Just like she says in the letter, she was motivated to write it after seeing the Broadway production of Matilda.
“I went home and reread the book. Reading that book and seeing that show really reminded me because a huge part of the show takes place in the library. It reminded me of everything. I was able to travel and escape from everything here. The library let me do that,” Morello says.
As she describes in the letter, the library had always been Morello’s special place when she was a young girl, a place where she was excited to go weekly and pick out a half-dozen books at a time. “My mother always brought me and ever since I was little she told me to bring a book with me wherever you go.”
She’d devour books, and developed her love of reading and escaping in the pages of a story. But growing up, finding interests in other things, coupled with a medical situation around the start of high school, and Morello drifted away from the place that once held her devout attention.
“I wish that when I was in high school that I hadn’t forgotten about it. For two years—from freshman to the beginning of junior year—I couldn’t read or write. When I was able to again, I don’t know, I just didn’t come back,” she says, her voice trailing off.
Perhaps because she found herself at a time of transition, just before leaving for college, that she remembered the library again. But seeing her favorite story come to life on stage was enough of a reminder to rediscover her love and remark on it in the letter.
That message was something that absolutely made an impression on the people who work there when they received the note.
“Her letter was read at our recent staff meeting and we all gave a collective sigh. It was so moving to hear from one of our younger constituents that the library and its people made a difference in her life—and as a busy teenager about to start a new phase of that life, she took the time to craft a handwritten note with such heart-felt gratitude,” says Janet Crystal, the Wilton Library’s marketing communications manager. “It was wonderful to receive such a letter. It made us all stop for a moment to remember why we do what we do and for whom.”
Library executive director Elaine Tai-Lauria agrees. “The story of her visits to Wilton Library and the impact they had on her meant so much to the staff—it truly made our day! Meredith’s letter captured the real essences of what libraries mean to so many people.”
Morello has since already left for college, starting her studies early at the University of Utah. But before she departed she gave some advice for other Wilton kids, to think of the library as something which they should never let go.
“I’d tell them, ‘This place is a place where you can get work done, and it’s a more focused environment. Read as much as you can. Appreciate everything life has to give to you here. Librarians will help you, they always helped me. You’ll always be able to find something here. It’s exciting to be in a library. It gives you a whole new depth, it’s fun and it makes you happy.’”
Hopefully, happily ever after.