When I was younger, no matter where I lived, the local library would become my new favorite place. In 2003, when I was 6, my family and I moved to Bowling Green. The Warren County public library became my home away from home. We would go once a week, and I would spend hours finding exciting novels or new areas of research, losing myself in the wonders of the world and fiction. By the time I was 10, I knew the library like the back of my hand.
That summer my mom enrolled me in an art class taught by college students in the fine arts center on campus. She dropped me off at the columns and directed me toward the doors. I ventured down some stairs instead and found myself in the Margie Helm Library. It was my first time getting lost in the labyrinth of a basement, andI found a new place full of books and documents to love. The retro furniture and the beautiful scent of old government records instantly stole my heart. I stayed long enough to flip through a record of the Vietnam War, but I had to make it to an art class in an equally confusing building next door.
Over the next few years, Helm came into my life a more often. As a homeschool student, using resources available in my community was key to my education. I couldn’t check out books from Helm, but there were no rules against reading the books there on a burnt orange, faux leather couch. The books in Helm don’t seem like the material a middle school student would be interested in, but for a tween who loved political history, it didn’t get better than Helm.
During my freshman year of high school, I took a theater class as part of a homeschool class group . We were fortunate enough to use the Russell Miller Theatre in FAC. I was unlucky enough to be the kid everyone else bullied (yes, homeschool kids bully each other). During rehearsals, it was easy for me to slip away to the cozy library when they wouldn’t leave me alone or I felt too lonely in the group of 30 kids that deemed me as unworthy. Thirteen-year-old me didn’t have a partner to practice lines with, but the rows of books in Helm listened to my 12 lines over and over again.
I found a much nicer community of friends my last two years of high school while competing in speech and debate. I gravitated towards political events, but without a school library, I needed more resources. During those two years, I made a few trips to both Cravens and Helm, but always read the books in a comfy green chair somewhere in Helm, a comfy green chair I haven’t been able to find since then.
Helm gave me the reliable Wi-Fi I needed to find articles for my debate rounds and quiet shelves to sit between when I had to memorize new performances. My asthma never agreed with the old book smell, but its familiarity calmed any anxiety I had before an important debate tournament. My last two summers in high school included going to debate camp on WKU’s campus, and Helm was always there for breaks from intense sessions, the crazy Kentucky heat and petty fellow campers.
When I started college on WKU’s campus I knew two things: Helm and Mass Media. Freshman year was a whirlwind of balancing collegiate debate, 400 level classes, a new job and figuring out my life. I basically started to live inside Helm. It gave me coffee and a comfy place to complete hours of assignments and debate work. I should have just put a mattress between the stacks because I spent more time there than in my dorm. I can’t count how many all-nighters and middle-of-the-day naps I took in Helm that year.
During my sophomore year, Helm transformed from my study space into my hideaway. Helm was perfectly located between the three buildings I had classes and meetings. Its seemingly endless shelves and cozy nooks gave me a place to forget about my stress. The quiet hum of something old and electrical became the white noise in trying to figure out what I was doing with my life. I switched my major from political science to professional writing and Asian religions and cultures on the platform above Java City, and I wrote my first major research project in the room below.
This year, my junior year and last year with the old Helm, has been the best year of my life. I can’t think of a single school day this year I haven’t spent some time in Helm. It’s the unspoken official meeting place for my friends. No one has to say “let’s go to Helm”; we just know that’s where we have to be.
It is home to party planning and hours-long conversations about our troubles. It has seen us cry but also laugh till we’ve shed enough happy tears to erase all the sad ones. We all come from different parts of the country and live in different apartments, but Helm has become our common home. I’ll miss having the old Helm to always remind me of the wonderful times over the past nine years, and I’ll really miss not having it my senior year. But hopefully the WKU Commons at Helm does just as much for a new era of students as it has for me.
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