According to a 2012 Pew research study, Millennial women (18-30 year olds) say that technology, music, pop culture and clothing define them.
Not so for 25-year-old Melanie Knippen, a passionate fan of public libraries. To prove it, she wrote "The Place Made From Many Trees," as an homage to the Indian Trails Library District.
The Place Made From Many TreesNearly every Saturday,
my mom and I walked
from the underground garage
through the glass doors
leading to my second home
Free to roam the rows,
I explored a forest of books;
pine green, sky blue, berry red,
bark brown, sunlight yellow
The ground sprouted orange carpet
shelves grew different heights,
released intoxicating scents,
paper and ink at varying degrees
of age and wear
Where there was a collection
of people and places and things
rooted in binding spines
that overflowed with so much to know
I sat down with stacks of books
always peeking to find
when they were last cracked,
the cover's index card stamped
with the chronicles of "Date Due"
I wondered how each fit in
its temporary home
and who read it?
and did they like it?
and would I like it too?
Leafing through each paper adventure
I enjoyed textures,
yellow inky pages of "chapter-books"
dog-eared and pulpy papered,
worn thin by fingerprints
and the subtle oil of so many hands
turning so many pages
My Library Card was a ticket
to the entire world
I learned about anything I didn't know:
Ancient Egypt, space, voodoo,
deep sea life, ghosts, and Nancy Drew
I made rounds around Dewey's Decimal System
found solace in the order of letters and numbers,
and the retrieval of what I was looking for
in its designated place
After escaping for awhile
it would be time to check out
the Librarian's warm smile
I always took her advice
Every night at home,
my mom would read me stories
from our treasured finds;
she would pick out thin, wide books
to read, with heavy themes
that always drew tears from her eyes,
and "Why are you crying?" from my lips
She would reply, "It's so sad"
or "They're tears of joy";
back then, I couldn't fathom how words
could do such a thing,
but I would always hug her
and ask her to read it again,
the following night
Still I can be found there,
piling up stacks, adding to the tree
growing in my head
each leaf a book,
a thought, an image
When I stir the branches,
a scattering of stories
are set free in a pungent breeze,
carrying that wistful Library scent
"My memories of going to Indian Trails weekly with my mom until I was 18 stand out," says Knippen. "I'm introverted and shy. The library opened a path to the world for me and libraries continue to influence me," she adds, which is how her poem came to be written.
Asked by her Harper College instructor Anne Davidovicz to compose a poem based on a favorite childhood memory, Knippen didn't have to think twice. "My poem articulates my belief that libraries are refuges for solitude, comfort and escape." She's fascinated by contrast: "readers sit in total silence while their brains fire off thoughts, absorb and collect ideas."
Her poetry has been featured in the Harper College literary magazine, "Point of View," and she was recently awarded the Vivian Stewart Award for her poem "My Mother's Malignancy," and the Point of View Award for her poem "The Minotaur in the Labyrinth."
A fan of poets Sylvia Plath, Mary Oliver and Diane Wakoski, Knippen's early Indian Trails memories impact the vocational path she's chosen as well; she traded a potential career in art psychotherapy for that of poet and literature teacher because she wants to share her passion.
"Technology is not genuine," she says. "We don't value face-to-face experiences. I hope my poetry can help people express their emotions." Toward that end, she will pursue an MFA, amass teaching skills and use her original compositions to illustrate "the broken sense of things."
"Melanie read her poem at a summer concert the library hosted," says Susan Dennison, head of Communications Services. "My first impression was 'Wow, this young woman is very articulate and composed.' As I began to listen to her poem, I realized her words voice the feelings many people have about libraries. We knew we wanted to share Melanie's work with the community."
Knippen's poem will be on display at the Indian Trails Library District, 355 Schoenbeck Rd., Wheeling, beginning in October.
The Indian Trails Library District serves 67,000 residents in Wheeling, Buffalo Grove and Prospect Heights by providing programs, services and resources that enrich and engage the community.