Helen Smith*, a retired teacher and school librarian whose life was shaped by her love of reading is giving back to the Calgary Public Library.

For 20 years, the woman watched and helped youngsters in the Calgary public school system fall under the spell of books and she hopes her future gift—in the form of a life insurance policy—will continue that wonderful work once she is gone.

While she has decided to remain anonymous regarding her donation, she wanted to share her desire to pass along her love of reading, which was first ignited by a trip to the hospital as a young girl.

“I can remember when I was nine years old and in the General Hospital having my appendix out. My mother brought me two books; the Bobbsey Twins and Peter Pan and Wendy. When I read them, I really fell in love with books,” she said.

Years later, she was teaching school in Calgary but decided to go back to university to take librarianship courses that she could combine with her classroom career.

“I was a teacher first and I went back to university and took some courses in library studies. When I stop to think of why I did it, I believe it was because of the millions upon millions of ideas that are collected together in printed form and can’t be destroyed,” she said.

Once at university, she recalls a startling discovery.

“Researchers had taken a CT scan of people reading and also one of people watching television. Those who were reading their entire brains were lit up and vibrant. Those who were watching TV, well their brains were fairly dull and dim,” she added.

*Name has been changed at the donor’s request

– Story by Chris Nelson

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