Friday, June 2, 2017

Prayer in a Public Library

Earlier this week, I attended a day long seminar. During my lunch break, I began walking around the building looking for a quiet place that I could duck into and pray (for those who dont know, I am Muslim). I ended up walking around the full building 3 times, covering both the downstairs and the upstairs hoping that there was a corner I missed. There wasn't.

Feeling quite a bit of despair I slowly dragged my feet back to the conference room. That is when a thought came to me. I remembered reading in passing that some libraries will have a secluded area for patrons to pray. I glanced over at the library next door. I stood staring at it for a good five minutes. Figured I had nothing to lose by asking and slipped inside.

I approached the circulation desk and asked if they had a quiet corner out of the way of patrons that I could pray in. They shook their heads at me, I said thank you and turned to go. I heard someone ask me to wait, and watched as the staff discussed among themselves the new policy changes their library had recently made.

They turned to me with a huge smile on their faces and one of the librarians told me they had just recently made a change, and if I wanted, I could use their study room to do my prayer. I was ecstatic, to say the least. I quickly followed, did my prayer, said my thanks, and headed back to my seminar.

I found myself in good spirits throughout the day. It really made my heart swell that I was able to go to a library, and find that I was able to pray alone in a quiet place. Not only was I not disturbing patrons, they were not disturbing me. (Trying to focus on your prayer with people walking past can be a tad bit difficult.)

Libraries are such amazing places that often do not get the credit they deserve. Many of them work hard to make sure that members of their community feel welcome no matter what. They are there to serve and to better the lives of their patrons. Yes, that includes allowing them a place to pray.

When I approached the circulation desk, I was rather hesitant and to be honest a bit uncomfortable. I was unsure how my question would be perceived. Yes, I work in a library. Yes, I have read articles and heard stories about libraries allowing space for patrons to pray in. However, it is not something I myself have come across. Nor do I know anyone personally who has gone through the experience. I am grateful that I did ask, that the answer was yes, that I did not allow my hesitation get in the way. Am I more likely to check in a library when I need to pray and cant find one? You bet!

I am often asked why I chose the field that I did. At first, my answer was that I was always surrounded by books. Now? Its because of everything it has to offer while allowing you to continue to grow as a human being.

By the way, the library in question?
Upper Merion Township Public Library

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