Most St. Charles City-County Library Branches are open for in-person Library service. Learn more here.


2020 Essay Contest Winners

"National Library Week: Find Your Place, Share Your Story"

1st & 2nd Place Winners!

Age Categories
Up to 5th Grade 6th - 12th Grade      Adults         

First Place - Up to 5th Grade

By Jane

I love all the things about the library, but these are some of my favorites. My first favorite thing about the library would be the Summer Reading. I really like it because it’s fun to see how much you can read over the summer, and I like the little squares that aren’t reading, like, “Make a new friend” and stuff like that. And I like that you get a free book after your first sheet, and also last year I felt really good about myself because I completed a lot of sheets and was the first to get my Super Reader yard sign. 

I also like the events at the library, and they are fun. My favorite events that I have been to are the movie times because they are super fun to do with friends, and they always have good snacks. I like the Lego building times because you get to build whatever you want, and then they get displayed over the audiobooks. 

I really like the library because their kid section is so big. Some libraries will have a big adult section and a little kid section, but my library has a big kids section, and I like that. They also have lots of coloring sheets and stuff like that to color, and they are fun. 

And me and my friends go there a lot together, and I even met one of my best friends there! We started playing together with the kids toys, and then the next time we went to the library I saw her again, and we became friends. 

And also the library has a lot of books. My favorites are the Harry Potter series, especially the ones that have been illustrated by Jim Kay. Another one of my favorites is the Magic series, by Edward Eager, which I am reading right now on e-book. And I really like the Jessica Brody books, and the Wendy Mass books, and also the book One For Sorrow. And I have a lot more that I like.

Second Place - Up to 5th Grade

The Kid Who Did Not Want to Read
by Aiden


Hey, Library, do you remember me? I was the kid who didn't like to read. 

I kicked and pouted and said I hate reading. And then I got a consequence or I would just keep being stubborn. I would get up early and read to my mom or dad until I mastered reading. 

The library kept having more books. 

Then I realized that it was not worth the trouble kicking and pouting. You should read so you can get good grades and move up to the next grade. Plus, the books taught me new ways to play, new ideas to act out. It was not that bad after all. 

The library taught me to like reading. But you do not have to like reading to enjoy the books. I get lost in stories about history and animals and forget I am even reading. 

I like reading and I am practically a bookworm. I give all credit to the library and a persistent librarian for knowing I could do it and not giving up on me. 

After all, I used to be the kid that did not like to read. And now look at me!

First Place - 6th - 12th Grade

By Dean

During my years at Hardin Middle School, the library was my safe haven of independence and curiosity. After school I would walk the 30 minutes it took to bounce through the doors and be able to take off the mask I wore around school. I could relax, I didn’t have the eyes of opinionated kids watching me anymore, I could un-hunch my shoulders and tip my chin up a little. 

Through Kathryn Linnemann, I was about to meet so many friends who I still talk to today whether through Teen Advisory Board, D&D nights, or even just talking to the librarians on a quick drop by to pick up a book. I became close to so many people but also the building itself. I noticed when things moved around, I could tell you exactly where the religion section was in the non-fiction, I memorized every nook and cranny I could because the library was a second home for me. 

I don’t believe a lot of people realize just how important the library is to teens. I’ve had conversations with peers who say they stay at the library all day because they don’t want to be at home, that those walls were the only place where they can take down their walls and just be themselves. Hearing what they had to say only made me more protective of the library and what it stands for. 

At first most people think that the library is only dusty books and people playing solitaire on the computers, but there is so much beyond that stereotype. It’s a place where you can ask questions, find resources, but you can also find family there. Elizabeth Lippoldt, the teen librarian at KL, was and still is a mentor figure for me. She taught me to be informed and inquisitive, accepting of even the strangest things, and took care of me even when I didn’t think I needed to be taken care of. She inspired me to learn more about being a librarian and got me to the point where all I wanted was to work at KL along with her. Elizabeth and I were able to create a little second family of friends, a group that through all odds still found a way to stick together in the end. 

It’s been 2 years since I left Hardin, and a lot has changed. Not only have I changed, but the library. As middle schoolers become high schoolers, new kids have replaced the old as the regulars in the teen section. I find myself unable to go to the library as much as I want to, but these memories I have have shaped me into a better person than I ever could have thought to be. Because of the library, I hold my chin high, ask a lot more questions, and stand up a little taller than I once did. 

Thank you, Saint Charles City-County Libraries, you don’t even know how many lives you have changed.

Second Place - 6th - 12th Grade

By Magi

My family moved to the United States less than five years ago. I was only eleven years old at the time, my brother was seven, and the only person in our family who knew how to speak any practical, applicable English was my mom. It took us less than a month after our plane landed in Missouri to realize that everything that had seemed so exciting and new before was actually nothing less than terrifying and near impossible to figure out.     

For most of fifth grade I felt like the class goldfish - not because any of my classmates showed any interest towards me, since I really did struggle with making friends - but because being in a place where the main language spoken is one that you’re mostly unfamiliar with has a way of making you feel like you’re underwater. Like every single sentence sent my way ended up partially dissolving before reaching my ears and I was left with only what bare fragments of it I could understand. Simple words like “smile”, “friend”, “apple juice”, “red” were usually the only ones that stuck.     

Thanks to my mother and my teachers my English was slowly improving, and it was around that time that I had started falling in love with reading, and along with that, finding a new love for the library as well. I remember the day I got my library card embarrassingly well, which is saying a lot because I had ended up blocking out a lot of memories from those first two years of my life in the United States. It was such a small thing, literally it was a plastic rectangle no bigger than my hand, but it was one of the best things that had happened to me during that time. That little plastic card was my key to so many stories that not only became my friends in a time when I needed them most but also taught me that I’m capable. I checked out a new book almost every week and every single one of them told stories of people undergoing tragedy and challenges thousands of times worse than my own and still being able to face it every single time and (almost) always defeat it. It made me feel like I was also capable of doing that and suddenly speaking, waking up in the morning and making friends all seemed achievable.     

The library provided me with a safe place during a time where almost every place other than my house made me feel tremendous amounts of anxiety. It introduced me to stories and resources that have definitely had a large impact on who I am today. But most importantly, the library helped me reclaim the English language and through literature made my biggest weakness one of the things I love most.

First Place - Adults

The Library - a Motif of Life
by Karen


''It's coming! It's coming! Put your shoes on and I'll race you to the corner.’’ 

No, it wasn’t the ice cream man, it was the Bookmobile coming to park at the end of the street. Like an armored car, that vehicle held shelf after shelf of gold – words, illustrations, ideas and stories to fill the summer and fill my mind. 

But the library didn’t always come to us, we went to it. A ten-page project on ‘’weather’’ seemed insurmountable until I was greeted at the door of the local library with the smell of knowledge and the silent but energetic and inspiring atmosphere of discovery. Friday night films of Laurel and Hardy, courtesy of the library’s film collection, and a grocery bag of popcorn drew us together as a family and as a neighborhood. Who knew that old black and whites threaded through that temperamental projector could make us laugh until we rolled on the ground with silliness and joy. 

When beginning my own household and finances were slim, the library was our weekly destination. From magazines and cookbooks and do-it-yourself manuals, travel guides and stories from all over the world, to audiobooks and music, our life together was rich even though we weren’t. 

Today, St. Charles County Library is still a vital part of life. With travel and responsibilities far from home, I never have to decide whether a novel or a necessity goes in my bag. I can carry every story I want to read or listen to on my phone, thanks to the wonders of the library’s digital world. Although the wonder of the digital world can’t compare to the wonder of my childhood, walking into the library on a warm summer day and exploring the treasures of the hardbound world, how could I not be thankful for the vastness of ideas and opportunities available on-line. 

The library is a continuous motif – woven and written into the life story – connecting us to the world, to each other and to the words needed for a rich and fulfilled life.

Second Place - Adults

By Sandy

For as long as I can remember, the library has been in the background of all of my life’s milestones. As a fresh-faced immigrant at the age of six, elementary school was an alienating battleground of indistinguishable noises where I spent the majority of my time holed up in the renovated closet called the English as a Second Language department. To say I felt claustrophobic was an understatement. However, I’m not just referring to the lack of physical space. I felt claustrophobic everywhere. I was constantly being smothered by the weight of judgement — judgement from my suburban classmates who thought my accent was funny, judgement from my teachers who wondered why I continually struggled with contractions, and judgement from my parents who feared I would grow too ‘American’. All I wanted was for everyone to quiet down. 

That’s how the library became my home away from home. Its comfortable silence drew me in like an inviting hug from a familiar friend. I would spend hours on end, tucked away in some corner of the building with a book in my hand and three others in my lap. Books were patient with me, and I never felt a sense of “otherness” while I read. Soon enough, they became my favorite teachers. From my humble Giving Tree beginning, I developed my understanding of the English language enough to finish the Harry Potter series by the end of the third grade. I was unstoppable. 

As far as I knew, the library held the answers to everything. When my mom needed to study for her citizenship test, I checked out the first seven books listed in the catalog about American history and government. When I began reading classical literature for middle school, I wielded my dad’s library card like a platinum credit card with my arms. Sometime in the seventh grade, I got glasses and let me tell you, it was a real game changer. With a sudden clarity I’ve never possessed before, I buried my head in Crime and Punishment. And 1984. And Brave New World. And really anything else I could get my grubby little hands on. 

By the time high school rolled around, the library was well on its way toward renovation. After its completion, I refused to leave. I was a resident of the second-floor meeting rooms. It was here that I so frequently experienced whiteboard marker fume headaches as I slaved over the material for AP exams. Eventually, the chemistry equations turned into essay prompts, and the essay prompts manifested into college acceptance letters. At the end of senior year, I said a temporary goodbye to the library and promised to return soon for the coffee. 

Looking back, the library and I have shared many frustrated tears and exciting epiphanies. Starting from way back when the chicks were incubating in children’s sections to the introduction of the fountain in the middle of the lobby, the library has proven to be my place. It will always be my place.