Sneha J. 2020-2021 Student Library Ambassador, 12th Congressional District. North Carolina Library Advocacy.

Get to know Sneha…
Hi there! My name is Sneha, and I’m a first year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying computer science. Over the past few years, I’ve used my passion for technology to empower marginalized communities and foster inclusivity in tech. I’m also an avid reader; my go-to genre has always been dystopian fiction, but during quarantine, I’ve had the chance to explore genres ranging from coming of age to science fiction. In my free time, I love to travel, volunteer, and dance.

What made you interested in being a library ambassador?
I applied to be a library ambassador to give back to the community that has played such a pivotal role in my life. I have been volunteering and contributing to community service projects at my library for over five years, and in doing so, I have established a close bond with the staff and visitors. My weekly volunteering became a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and hear their stories. To this day, I remain grateful for these opportunities. Serving as a library ambassador allows me to share my stories with members of my community while advocating for a cause I am truly passionate about.

Would you like to give a shout out to your home library?
Yes! Growing up, I have probably visited around five libraries. However, my “home” library will always be South County Regional. It is there that I led my first STEAM workshop to teach code to preteens and teens, motivating me to pursue more opportunities in STEM and community service. I have spent hours at South County browsing books, as a child, teen, and now an adult. Thanks to the welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff, I have come to think of South County as a second home.

What is your earliest library memory?
My earliest memory of going to the library was when I was four years old. I remember playing with the jumbo LEGO blocks and colorful abacuses in the toy area while my mom picked out books for us to read. After she returned, she would lay out the books one by one, and my over-excited self would eagerly look through all the covers and pick out my favorite. Then, we would sit down and read each book one by one, starting with my favorite. Hours would pass by, but we would keep reading without a care in the world. Fourteen years later, this still remains one of my most cherished memories.

Favorite Book?
I have several favorites, many being dystopian fiction, but I recently read The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, and I was fascinated by her clever use of science fantasy to portray pressing social justice and environmental issues in the real world. Through her creative writing style and unique book structure, Jemisin paves the way for a new frontier of ‘critical’ science fantasy, foreshadowing a world where violent natural disasters, classism, and prejudice run rampant.

What do you love about libraries?
What I love most about libraries is that everyone, regardless of age of background, can benefit from visiting a library. This goes hand-in-hand with the various programs libraries can offer in addition to borrowing books, from family story time to painting classes to interview preparation.

What do you want legislators to know about libraries?
I would like legislators to know that libraries serve as more than just a building with books to many people. Every child deserves to experience the magic of walking into a library for the first time and being in awe. Every parent deserves the chance to watch their kid’s eyes light up in excitement as they sit down together and open a book. These simple memories have instilled a long-lasting love for libraries within me, shaping a huge aspect of my identity. Regardless of age, libraries play an important role in the lives of all who visit it. However, despite their invaluable worth, it is a shame to see that libraries are not getting the funding they deserve. Libraries are the one place where everyone can feel welcomed and treated as citizens rather than consumers. An international student visiting America for the first time can attend english lessons and meet like-minded individuals through community groups. If a retiree needs computer help, the library offers free computer and internet access alongside typing classes. If a child needs extra academic support, the library provides tutoring sessions and homework help in a variety of topics. Libraries are truly what connects a community, and in an increasingly digitized world plagued by social isolation and depression, these sanctuaries remain critical for current and future generations.