If you ever wonder if what you do makes a difference.

We received this comment yesterday and it was too good not to share with everyone. I hope it makes you all feel extra special.

Hello,
I don’t know who’s reading this, but that’s okay. I hope you can pass this on to your colleagues, especially any older staff you work with.

My name is Jacob Eisen. I grew up in Fairfield, though we moved away when I was 13. I’m 24 now, doing my best to finish a master’s degree in Illinois. It’s very difficult to communicate these emotions through email, particularly because you and I have almost certainly never met. But I just want to express my sincerest thanks to you all. Very deeply, and very sincerely. The Fairfield Lane Library was a critically important space for me for all 13 years I lived in Fairfield. I was lucky enough to have parents who supported my education and engagement with community, and so they took me there often. I spent countless hours doing all sorts of things there. Crafts with volunteers or staff, holiday events, playing life-sized “Harry Potter” chess outside, poetry contests, using the computers, browsing through books, exploring the space, and reading quietly. That’s not to mention the dozens and dozens of hours spent in the community space around the library, including the park and amphitheater—concerts, more holiday events, art shows, or just playing with friends.

I cannot possibly express how unbelievably important the Fairfield Lane Library (and surrounding community area) was to my development as a person. It is a space that will always be deeply embedded in me—not just in my memories, but in my everyday actions and in my foundational belief systems. The high ceiling and the echoing sound of barcodes being scanned and objects being gently shuffled are snapshots that make me want to cry, thinking about them. It’s a place where I felt supported, like people really wanted to help me and cared about what I was thinking.

It feels so far away from me now. It’s hard to explain why I felt so compelled to send this email. It’s something like… I’m trying to connect different parts of my life together, and I don’t always understand the way they fit together. Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of my 10-year-old self with my 24-year-old self. Things are so different now, both inside and outside me. What are all the ways I’ve grown and changed since then? What can I learn about myself by trying to remember things about that ten year old?

I’m sure you have spaces like this of your own. And I hope the library can continue to make a space like that for kids in 2022. I don’t need to tell you how important you and the things you do are, you already know—but maybe reminding you will make you feel good. It makes me feel good to tell you, anyway.

I had an interesting conversation with a close friend of mine who’s a conflict journalist. He told me something like this: “There’s a lot of art that purports to be anti-war. It does its best to show the horrors of war and make you understand them. But because art often seeks to entertain (such as movies or games, for example), it’s often self-subversive in some way so that the experience can be kept entertaining. True anti-war art depicts peace.” I think what you are doing is something truly anti-war. Building relationships and growing communities, providing safe spaces, giving things unconditionally.

Please pass this on if you can. I want your colleagues to know they’re making a difference. It’s probably very hard to tell, sometimes.

All the best,
Jacob Eisen
Graduate Research Assistant

Aerospace Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign