On Thursday, June 26, 1997, the world was forever changed. On this day, we mere muggles were blessed with the masterpiece that is Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. On this date, the book was first published in the U.K. (It was later published in the U.S. in September 1998 under the title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.) And I can tell you, from the first time I escaped into my favorite world, my life would never be the same.

For this children’s librarian, it’s always a huge humble-brag of mine to tell people I am a self-proclaimed “Harry Potter hipster.” As in, I read the books before they were cool (well, the first book at least). In August 1998, a month before the U.S. publication of Sorcerer’s Stone, I entered fourth grade. It was in this school year that I first recall discovering this book in my school library.

I was always an avid reader, and loved just browsing the shelves for books that “looked good”. I have a distinctive memory of finding this book on my school library’s shelf. I remember being attracted to the jewel tones of the book jacket illustration. Of being intrigued by the boy flying on a broomstick on the cover. Despite the old saying of “never judge a book by its cover” I totally did. I was pulled in. Who was this boy? What is the sorcerer’s stone? I had to know. And my world was never the same. From that fateful day in fourth grade, 10 year old me was changed. Definitely for the better.

Now, here we are 20 magical years later.

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I know what some of you are thinking. Isn’t she a little old for Harry Potter? Did it really change her life as much as she claims? And the answers are no and yes, respectively. The world of Harry Potter is complex and with every re-read and re-watch I learn and discover something new. At the heart of it, these books are about love and friendship; how everything is not always black and white, but in the end good will always prevail, even when at times it seems it won’t.

As for changing my life, it really did. My love/borderline obsession with all things Harry Potter has helped me form friendships. There is nothing like bonding with someone over being in the same Hogwarts House (GO GO GRYFFINDOR!) or hating the same characters (UMBRIDGE, OBVIOUSLY). I’ve been to Harry Potter trivia nights and themed parties; I’ve dressed up with friends for the movie and book releases. One friend and co-worker even had a Harry Potter themed wedding (see LeAnn’s blog post about her wedding here!).

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On top of creating a commonality in many of my friendships, I know it has affected me on a deeper level too. Harry Potter has had a profound impact on my worldview and taught me about compassion, bravery, and kindness; more than anything else had up to that point in my life.

I reached out to my friends and co-workers on social media to share their thoughts on how Harry Potter has affected their lives and what this special series means to them. Common themes included: learning that not everything is as simple as good vs. evil; finding a sense of community and a way to connect with others; that it’s okay to break the rules sometimes. I heard from my peers and their parents alike that they read the books along with their parent/child and it gave/gives them something to enjoy and talk about together as a family.

One friend lost a parent at a young age and strongly identified with Harry in that aspect. Another had a less than stellar father, but they were able to form a connection through these books, and reading them together is one good memory he has of his dad.

A friend and former co-worker of mine said, “Harry Potter gave me hope when I was in doubt, and was light when my world was dark.” Others seconded this thought saying that the books gave them something to get through some of their toughest times. As Albus Dumbledore said, “happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” This light for so many, is escaping to Hogwarts and fighting Voldemort alongside Harry and his friends.

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I grew up with this series. I turned 10 in fourth grade, when I first read the Sorcerer’s Stone. One year younger than Harry and his friends. The seventh and final book came out in July 2007, just a couple months after I graduated high school. I’m a proud first generation Potterhead who literally grew up along with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army. It’s been quite the ride, and an amazing 20 years.

And now, as one of the children’s librarians at the Erlanger branch, I get the privilege to see a new generation discover this amazing world; this world and series that has given me so much over the last 20 years. I get to pass it along, and that, dear readers, is a pretty special and amazing thing.

20 years. 7 books. 8 movies. 1 play.

As J.K. Rowling said herself, “Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

Thank you, Jo. For giving the world your story. For giving us all a place to escape in good times, and bad. I cannot speak for everyone, but I am eternally grateful. Always.

 

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Jill Frasher is a Children’s Librarian at the Erlanger Branch. She can be identified by her often brightly colored sneakers. She’s a baker, binge-watcher, and self-proclaimed cardigan enthusiast. She’s still awaiting her long-lost owl from Hogwarts.

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