A Place To Belong – How the Library Supports Our Military Children

Two children read books in front of library shelves.

Libraries, like so many other institutions, went through difficult times during the covid era. I was just beginning to feel like I was ready to sit through story time on a regular basis with a toddler AND a baby, when the libraries closed. I had a feeling this might be coming, so on our last visit in March of 2020, we checked out no fewer than thirty children’s books. Due dates were suspended, and we got as much as we could out of that pile. The building eventually reopened, but it was made clear that the expectation was for library patrons to pick out their books and make their way out. Meeting with friends, taking time to browse, or leisurely reading were not options. With all three of my children now mobile, this was a bit of a challenge, and library visits were no longer a highly anticipated outing. When we moved to Kansas the next year, we had a library within walking distance, and I looked forward to making visits there with my two preschoolers a regular part of my routine. The library was open without restrictions, but it wasn’t the kind of warm, welcoming place I remembered. Story time still had not returned, and toys and activities for little ones were absent as well. I tried to make it a pleasant time of dedicated reading with my kids, but there was nowhere comfortable to sit – and no one enjoys reading while wearing a mask. 

Fast forward to our next move a year later. An OCONUS (overseas) move meant that we spent several weeks living in the hotel on post, getting around on foot during a heat wave. The library became an oasis for my kids and me. It was a much-needed respite from our cramped hotel room. Here was a place where we could interact with others. Masks were no longer necessary, and read-alouds became enjoyable again. Our Army library is not an impressive facility; in fact it is rather small. But what isn’t small is the hearts of the people who keep it running. These women do so much more than cataloging books. Putting up with rambunctious young children is not even the most impressive thing they accomplish. Our librarians always find a way to make my children (and me!) feel seen and known. They greet them with sincere smiles, and point out how much they’ve grown. They notice what kinds of books we each enjoy, and will often put something on hold for us that they think we will like. They have even ordered new books, specifically with my daughter’s love (or obsession) with wild felines in mind. They never make small (i.e. noisy) children feel like an annoyance or inconvenience.

The library has become a home away from home for all of us. A warm place to stop between other outings on post. A place to write without distraction. A place for homework. A place for meeting friends. A place to be inspired by a new cook book, or countless travel guides. After school, the library is a bustling place. High school students earn volunteer hours, while younger students receive tutoring services. Upstairs, one of the librarians leads middle grade children in a book club. Younger siblings play in the enclosed children’s section, while moms catch up with one another. This is the place where I have watched my kindergartner learn to read. It’s where I have seen my ten year old grow in independence. It’s the place where I have rediscovered my own love of reading and found new (fictional) friends to keep me company during quiet evenings at home.

There was a time when I was unsure if the local library would ever become a gathering place once again. I am so glad I was wrong. Here at our small base in Italy, the library has become a true home for the community. And none of this would be possible without our tireless librarians. As we celebrate our amazing kids during Month of the Military Child, it’s a good time to take note of the people and organizations that help our families know that they belong – no matter where the military sends them. What is a local institution or group that has helped your military child to thrive? 

Previous articleThe Time I Finally Took on too Much
Next articleFinding Your Village
Julie Barnes
Julie is the mother of three kids, ages 10, 6, and 3. Although she knew little about military service when her marriage began, she promised to follow her husband wherever the Army would send him. To her continuous surprise and delight, the Army has brought her family to Italy for a second time. A former piano teacher and worship leader, Julie has recently shifted her creative energy to writing. She has contributed to Legacy Magazine and She Is Kindred – A Storytelling Collective. Julie believes that telling our stories can help us understand each other’s unique journey and perspective, ultimately bringing us closer to one another. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading, cooking, sight-seeing, and learning Italian. Julie shares snapshots of her family’s life overseas on Instagram at @juliecodabarnes.


  1. Great article Julie! This resonated with me and brought back fond memories of library days. It’s wonderful that you have found a real gem there and they deserve this recognition!

Comments are closed.