Study Guide

A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long Summary

By Nikki Giovanni

A Poem for My Librarian, Mrs. Long Summary

Giovanni reflects on her childhood in her grandparents' home city of Knoxville, Tennessee in the late '50s. She remembers their habits, including a lack of television during the day and cozy nights spent listening to jazz greats singing on the radio. She centers her happy memories of childhood on the Lawson McGhee Library in Knoxville and its kindly librarian, Mrs. Long.

The library is a place of wonder for her, and Mrs. Long was always on hand to help her find whatever she wanted to read. As her mind expands, the young Giovanni asks for volumes that their branch library does not have. Mrs. Long takes it upon herself to make humiliating journeys to the "big library" (read "primarily white library") uptown to ask for the books for Giovanni. She never failed in her quest.

Giovanni tells us that people like Mrs. Long and her grandmother made her world in Knoxville, Tennessee a happy and safe place, despite the social inequalities that made the South a generally inhospitable place for black families. She ends the poem by saying that this love opened up the world in a positive way for her, preparing her for all the changes that were to happen in her life and in American society.