I recently read about an 8-year-old chess champion in The New York Times. Tanitoluwa Adewumi and his family are legal Christian refugees who fled from Nigeria out of fear of Boko Haram, and they were living in a homeless shelter in New York. Although Tani’s father held two jobs, he didn’t earn enough to pay for housing for his family.

About a year ago, little Tani wanted to join the chess club at his nearby public school, but his parents didn’t have the money to pay for his membership. Russell Makofsky, who directs the club, agreed to let him join without cost. This spring, the homeless third-grader won in his age group in the New York State Chess Championship, going undefeated. The competition included youngsters from elite private schools and those with their own personal chess tutors. Remember, Tani had just learned how to play the game last year.

What’s this got to do with Whitman County Library? Nick Kristof, the Times columnist who wrote about Tani and his family, sums things up simply: Talent is universal. Opportunity is not. And this is exactly where our local library comes in.

We know there are youngsters living nearby with the potential to grow into expert code writers, skilled physicians and operators of successful businesses. Talent is universal.

Libraries create opportunities. Whitman County Library partners with local schools to help students understand that, not only can they use technology, but they can learn to create the digital world they wish to see.

The library partners with the local hospitals to bring exercise classes and health education that enhance the lives of older adults. We know we live longer nowadays. We want those longer lives to be healthy and productive.

The Natural Resources and Conservation Service, collaborating with the library, is presenting a series of programs called “Science on the Palouse.” We have to understand what’s out there before we can make useful moves to protect it.

Talent is all around us, as Tani and Kristof remind us. Opportunities are not. Libraries are quite literally open doors of opportunity. Who knows what local people may just be looking for a chance to develop their talents?

Sue Hallett is the president of Friends of the Whitman County Library.

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