Can books be friends? One Omaha Public Library (OPL) patron says so, and we agree.
In 2012, Omaha native Donna Sempek donated a wealth of books and Murder She Wrote DVDs to OPL. Sempek’s donation was a “thank you” of sorts, the reason for her contribution outlined in a five-page handwritten letter mailed to OPL. In this letter, she described how the Library enriched her and her mother’s lives.
Until 2008, Sempek had not stepped foot in a library in over 20 years. Her rediscovery was the result of unfortunate circumstances. “Five years ago my dad died,” Sempek wrote in her letter. “After Dad was gone, Mom’s reading increased dramatically. Increasing expenses coupled with her finishing a book every day led me back home to the good ol’ library, Millard Branch.”
Sempek’s mother, unable to drive, entrusted her daughter to select books on her behalf – at first, a daunting task. However, Millard Branch staff, which Sempek now refers to affectionately as her “Library Family,” came to her rescue. “What service I have received from individuals who have a passion for what they do, who realize how important reading is to one’s development, and who want to share this God-given talent and treasure of theirs with the rest of mankind,” Sempek wrote. “Now I guess you could call me a connoisseur not of fine wine, but of the artistry offered by a ‘fine library.’”
Books from the Library have offered her mom solace and entertainment. “Books have become my mom’s friends. The characters speak to her. They keep her company when I am not home. I’m grateful that Mom, first of all, likes to read; secondly, that God has not taken her sight; and thirdly, I have an unlimited source from which to draw from: the Library. It’s so uplifting for me to walk through the kitchen as mom sits at the table with the sun shining in, laughing out loud because of something a character has said or done, or so absorbed she does not even notice me.”
There’s never a shortage of good reads. Certain members of staff have grown to learn Sempek’s mother’s tastes so well, that often she will find “little surprises” on the holds shelf. “It’s like having a birthday all year long, never knowing when a gift might appear,” she wrote.
Last year Sempek discovered that OPL accepts donations. On went a light bulb; she could make good use of used books and movies sitting idly in her mother’s home. “I never bring any book that is in a condition I would not want to receive myself. You don’t mistreat an old friend. I know they have found a new home, a new purpose, and hopefully a part in making someone else’s day.” Also, after discovering OPL didn’t carry the hit television show Murder She Wrote, she inquired if OPL would accept it. “It’s one of those classic ‘whodunit’ shows. It enforces the old adage, ‘good triumphs over evil.’”
Sempek’s donations are only a small token of her gratitude, and her meaningful words are just as appreciated her contributions. Sempek concluded in her letter, “I thank the Omaha Public Library from the bottom of my heart for giving my mom happiness and companionship. You have provided me with a means to make an elderly person’s day less lonely.”
Making a difference in people’s lives is always a welcome effect of OPL’s services. We are thankful for the generosity of people like Donna Sempek, and contributions are always welcome. OPL accepts donations of books, movies and more, and may be dropped off at any of 12 branch locations.