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‘The Library Broadened My Horizons’

Stephanie Mok’s Library Story helped her through a difficult childhood

‘The Library Broadened My Horizons’

Growing up, Stephanie Mok found the Library to be a “safe haven.”

Stephanie, now 27, grew up in southeast Calgary and frequented Fish Creek Library and Southwood Library. She spent most of her time after school and on weekends, from the age of 8 until she was 14, at the Library. To Stephanie, this was “a pretty critical timeline” in her life.

“Honestly, it was the spot that I would come to all the time. Things in my home life were not ideal so as opposed to hanging out in the neighbourhood, I found [the Library] was an enriching place, a safer spot and also a place where you could meet up with a friend from school and not feel embarrassed,” said Stephanie. “It was kind of my little secret place I would go.”

Being an only child of a single mother, who worked long hours during the evenings and weekends as a nurse, Stephanie used the Library as a place to go instead of going home to an empty house. ​She said her mother was comforted to know that she was at the Library, doing homework or reading about unicorns — science fiction was her favourite genre. 

Sitting in the Fish Creek Library today brings back memories of Stephanie’s youth. Although some things have changed, she says the Library is still a stunning space. Stephanie remembers liking that the staff and other people who frequented the Library were happy to answer questions or let her use a computer to look up things she was interested in.

“I was never uncomfortable, I was always happy,” Stephanie said with nostalgia.

Over time, Stephanie’s connection to the Library has changed. She used to work for United Way, where she would find volunteers to help deliver tax clinics at libraries around the city.

Stephanie now works as an organizer for the Calgary Folk Music Festival, while pursuing an undergraduate degree in social work at the University of Calgary. She is also the president of Otafest, an anime convention in Calgary. As the organization doesn’t have a physical location, they’re constantly looking for places to hold meetings. The Library’s free and bookable meeting rooms are an accessible place for the group to meet.

Throughout her life, the Library has been — and continues to be — an important place. “I found a safe haven, which broadened my horizons and, I believe, saved my life.”

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