By Shannon Matloob, 18, Senior writer, Beverly Hills HS (2008 graduate)
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Nobody believes me when I say this, sometimes even I’m doubtful, but I love libraries. I can’t blame anyone for being skeptical because I have spent the majority of my life avoiding libraries. I used to dislike books. I hated my family’s weekly outings to Barnes & Noble at the Grove and got constant headaches when I went in a library or a bookstore.

I even got my eyes checked for the headaches, and the doctor said my vision was fine and that I must be allergic to the smell of the book. Not knowing that he could be wrong or that such an allergic reaction ridiculous, I believed him. “I’m allergic to the smell. I’ll get a headache if I stay around a book for too long,” was my most often repeated phrase from the eighth through eleventh grades.

I thought libraries were horrible places and I referred to them as “monstrous structures filled with visual poison called ‘books,’” in a sophomore English essay. (Not surprisingly I received a horrible grade.)

As a senior I had no intention of giving libraries a second chance. But I had no choice when I found that my hate for traffic in the school parking lot trumped my hate for libraries. I started arriving at school half an hour early and leaving half an hour after school ended so I could leave the parking lot without enduring scary traffic.

The first few weeks of school I did homework at the library. It was much faster because there weren’t any distractions. I started to like the library—“but only for homework purposes, nothing else,” I’d tell my friends who wondered why all of a sudden I spent all my time “hidden” in the library. And other than in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’ve never seen any “cool” people spending time in libraries … none of my friends have.

At this point, I liked the library because it was a the only place I could read without any interruptions. It wasn’t until I had to look up a word while reading Naked that I realized the library has so much to offer. I got up and saw giant dictionaries on each of the five short shelves behind the row of computers. Realizing I was in the library because I’d forgotten where I was, I looked around to see if anyone else was in the library and saw a couple kids in the whisper area—a large corner of the room with round tables for groups to work—the loudest part of the library, a few people on laptops in the other cubicles across the room, and some people eating lunch in the patio by the window. I looked up the word, sat back down and continued reading.

But my mind stayed on the fact that there were probably hundreds of books I would love to read, like ones about Beverly Hills, old films, jazz, hypnosis, yoga, and medical topics like sleeping disorders, tanning, acne and secondhand smoke. I normally look up these topics on the Internet, but since anyone can publish anything on the Internet (I’ve changed articles on Wikipedia), I can’t exactly rely on these sources. There’s no way Frank Sinatra could have been born in five different cities, which is what I found reading different websites that had different birth cities for my favorite singer.

The public and school library have most of the books I need, and if mine doesn’t, there’s one just a few miles away that does. In mid-October, with the ACT only a few weeks away, I searched for practice books. My parents were reluctant to buy me another practice book, especially since I barely touched the ones for AP exams and the SAT. My parents said I should go to the public library and see if it has any practice books. I went to the library, and found a prep book in every brand. I took three, mainly because I couldn’t hold any more in my arms, and practiced with only one. Good thing I didn’t buy them (that would have been at least $60 down the crapper like my other prep books). I saw the library was becoming more useful as my academic needs demanded more help.

While I was on my public library’s website looking for a book on how to learn Hebrew, I noticed the “Events” tab. Every year, the BHPL welcomes Jim Jimirro, founding president of The Disney Channel, and current president of National Lampoon, Inc., to talk about music by my favorites like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. There are four sessions that run through the fall. Beyond having a special guest come to discuss the best artists of all time, the library also holds book discussions. Unfortunately, these run during school and work hours, the second Wednesday of each month.

And the librarians are far from evil. They’re just strict when it comes to being quiet, which I appreciate because I hate when I hear a cell phone go off in the midst of memorizing joints and muscles for Honors Physiology. There are like six flyers outside the library saying that we can’t bring food, drinks, or electronics that are turned on in the library. And if you even make the mistake of walking inside with a 51-ounce water bottle like I do on a daily basis, there’s a table right by the door on which you can put your prohibited items.

I never knew libraries have so much to offer. From providing fun reading that can replace a missed episode of “Gossip Girl” to hardcore practice tests for a class in which I’m struggling, the library is like Disneyland for the mind. Sure, every year at least one of my classes goes on a tour of the school library, but discovering the magical wonders myself makes the library more appealing than having a librarian tell me the same thing four years in a row.

A year ago, or even six months ago, I would never have predicted that I’d spend the majority of my time (before school, after school, and the last month of school I’d spend almost my whole day in there since my classes no longer had substance) in the library and never want to leave my new home away from home. But now, with all the knowledge I gained from exploring and all the fun I’ve had reading, I see that there really is a book for everyone, even those who swear off reading and put “I don’t read” in the box for favorite books on Facebook.

Other stories by this writer …

Learning to love reading. Shannon, 18, used to hate reading, but once she found books that she was interested in, she realized that there are fascinating new worlds to explore. (Sept. 2008)

Volunteering at the L.A. Film Festival.
She didn’t get paid or meet any celebs, but Shannon, 17, still managed to enjoy her work at the Los Angeles Film Festival. (Summer update 2008)

I don’t like your dog, OK?
Shannon, 17, has always been uncomfortable around dogs, but pushy dog owners really drive her crazy. (Nov. – Dec. 2007)

Summer job search woes. As a minor who won’t work at a grocery store or restaurant, Shannon, 16, has found getting a summer job (and extra cash) especially difficult this summer. (Summer update 2007)

Movies in my mailbox. With Netflix—the mail-order movie rental service—Shannon can see all the films she wants. (Nov. – Dec. 2006)

It’s just not that funny anymore. Shannon could really live without her classmates’ constant interruptions. (Oct. 2006.)