“I smile whenever I see kids running in and out of the library because I know they’ve either read or are about to read something great. I see them and say, ‘Yeah! You are reading and reading is awesome, which makes you awesome!’”
Meet Eric Forrest: Omaha native, librarian’s son, education enthusiast, library advocate. Warning: His thoughts on education may inspire you to expeditiously visit your nearest library branch, so have your library card handy.
Forrest literally grew up in the stacks, among books. His mother, Sherry Forrest, was a librarian at Omaha Public Library for two decades before retiring in 2011. His youth was full of library meandering and discovery, the result of frequent visits with his mom at work. “Growing up, it was really wonderful having ‘free reign’ of the library. It was my home away from home,” Forrest reflected. “I distinctly remember visiting Sorensen Branch, and diving into a corner somewhere to read [and] get into my own little world.”
As he grew older, his life at the Library evolved from just reading and learning to include more in-depth activities like research. “I cherish all the time I spent with my mother doing research, finding resources, and digging for information.” Forrest’s hard work paid off. His extensive research on Latin American baseball players and their history of being exploited by Major League Baseball turned into a thirty page article which he presented in 2006 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Now Forrest is no longer that young boy tucked away in some nook and cranny at the library. He graduated from Burke High School in 2001, and went on to earn degrees in journalism and secondary language arts education from University of Nebraska at Omaha. His resume is proof that his decidedly literary upbringing, with a librarian mom and being from a family of “learners,” has influenced his career endeavors. He’s a freelance writer, teacher at Metro (“Just this week I checked out a collection of short stories that I’ll use to facilitate a short story class I’ll teach this fall”), tutor (“I meet students at the library, as it is a safe place with many resources”), and co-creator of a new website called Pets In Omaha. “I always say, I’d much rather be a philosopher, writer, editor, and teacher than just a ‘dude on the Earth,’” Forrest said.
It is evident from Forrest’s reflections as an adult that public access to information and enlightenment are major themes in his life. “Libraries are a vital portion of our society. A lifetime could be spent in any [library] seeking truth, facts, theories, fun, family history, and so much more. Without a great educational and library system, I truly think we would be lost as a city, culture, and as people. In our quest for happiness and edification, we need schools and libraries. Education is the key to success in life.”
One last thought from this librarian’s son: “Stan Dale once said, ‘Comfort zones are plush lined coffins. When you stay in your plush lined coffin, you die.’ I don’t leave my comfort zone very often, as most people don’t, but I want to read and learn all there is to know.”
Now grab your library card. Explore. Learn. Enjoy.