My Turn with Rudy Renaud: Something worth a compromise

  • Karen “Rudy” Renaud

Published: 2/19/2019 8:54:58 AM

I was born and raised on 20 Loring St. in Lowell. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Fighter,” you’ve seen my neighborhood, my neighbors. The famous boxer Mickey Ward lived a few streets away. It was and still is a poor working-class neighborhood. Our little house was the first home my parents could afford, bought for a fortune at $14,000.

I was the youngest of five. None of my siblings or my parents went to college. My mother did not get beyond 8th grade because she needed to go to work to support her family. Above all, people in my neighborhood valued taking care of their family, which nearly always meant learning a trade. Education was important, but not affordable once it stopped being free.

I tell you all of this to give you an understanding of why a public library is important to me and to kids who grew up like I did.

I did not have a quiet place to study at home. Bedrooms were shared. There was no spare room or office. My study hall was the kitchen table. As you can imagine, there was always noise. Either it was brothers and sisters arguing, my baby niece crying, the television blasting, or my mother talking loudly in French to her mother, who lived just two blocks away. The room was filled with smoke from her Pall Mall cigarettes, and the long telephone cord tangled and untangled around the two scampering dogs. It was chaotic, to say the least. It was impossible to find the space or the quiet to let new ideas and thoughtful concepts take root, get tested, and bloom.

Just in case you’re wondering about the French, my family is French Canadian, and my mother grew up speaking French. She always spoke French when she didn’t want us to know what she was talking about. Little did she know we did. There is something to be said about two years of high-school French!

If your home life is chaotic and education is not a value your family can afford, an accessible and large public library is vital. It gives kids like me a place to go; a place where librarians can help a student find study guides for the SATs, research colleges, and dream. A library can literally change your life. It changed mine.

Spending time in the library helped me learn how to learn. This is something that comes easily and automatically to many kids from more privileged families than mine, and something that is neither easy nor automatic for kids like me. Being around people who prize learning and reading helped instill those values in me. I could not get that from my family. I had to get it from a place, away from school and home, where ideas and contemplation and dreams can take root. Where you can spend hours lost in a book, with no distractions.

To me, a new library is a civil rights issue. A free, accessible and properly sized public library levels the playing field and gives those who are less privileged a chance to build a better life. This is just one reason why this library is important enough to seek a compromise and work together to make it happen.

Karen “Rudy” Renaud is president of the Greenfield City Council, and a supporter of a plan to build a $19.5 million library for the city.


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