THE LIBRARIES TRANSFORM CAMPAIGN
Designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals, the Libraries Transform campaign will ensure there is one clear, energetic voice for our profession. Showcasing the transformative nature of today’s libraries and elevating the critical role libraries play in the digital age.
It’s 1977 and I’ve just moved with my family to Rice Lake and started the sixth grade at Rice Lake Middle School. Not an easy transition at 11 and starting middle school as the new kid. I found a home and an ally in the library and Mrs. Bloedow, the school librarian. It was a safe place where I felt comfortable and among my friends - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and more.
After school, I spent a lot of time at the Rice Lake Public Library waiting for my parents to pick me up and I got to know Nancy Zabel. Or, I should say, she got to know me. Once I was old enough, she helped me pick out some authors in the adult fiction section that I grew to love. And, she was always there to help with homework questions.
It’s weird, then, that I never thought of becoming a librarian as my profession. I started college and loved all my English lit classes and that ended up becoming my major. Then, my husband and I moved out to Logan, Utah where he started graduate school and I looked for a job.
After a few months at the newly built Shopko (yay for Wisconsin connections!), I got a job at Merrill Library at Utah State University. It was 1989, I was 23, and the new Night Circulation Supervisor. This meant that I worked the circulation desk and supervised students who were about the same age as me. I’m not sure what my supervisor, Dorothy Pope, saw in me but I am so glad she gave me a chance. I thought my colleagues in the Reference Department had the best jobs and several of them encouraged me to pursue librarianship as a career.
Wow - that’s almost 30 years in the library world. I’ve always been of service in my jobs - waitress/server, bank teller, circulation supervisor, reference librarian, and now CE Consultant. For me, that’s what it’s about being of service to my community and my community is my fellow library colleagues.
One afternoon Patricia Butler was in the library looking for some old articles in the McFarland Thistle (formerly McFarland Community Life). Patricia had stopped by on her way home to Minnesota to see if she could find something about her sister, Marie Udulutch, former publisher of McFarland Community Life, and the fire that destroyed the building where the newspaper was made one fateful day in the 1970’s.
She didn’t have much more than that to go on, but with the help of Newspaper Archives database and the bound back issues of the McFarland Community Life newspaper that are stored in the Local History Room at E.D. Locke Public Library, information was found. The articles were forwarded on to Patricia and will be used in her sister’s retirement party presentation this fall. Newspaper Archives and the Local History Room newspaper archives certainly guided and transformed Patricia’s research.
Caleb attended the library’s Minecraft Club. He really likes reading. The library is the perfect place because he doesn’t have to buy the books he wishes to take home and he can check them out and read them at home.
Fine-free teacher cards are huge. With the comprehensive literacy model, every lesson in the school is based around books – whether it’s science, social studies, reading, writing. Teachers are always looking for a great “mentor text” that can catapult their lesson. You have to have a great book. With our school library being the size that it is, I might have one or two copies of a text, but with four teachers doing the same unit at the same time, we might need eight. Beyond that, when the students have their free choice read, they want a wide variety of books on the topic that they’re learning. They’re making connections to what they’re learning about, and they think it’s cool. Especially the little ones, they’re just like, “Oh my god! Remember we just talked about this? Here it is!” And the teacher’s heart swells…”You get it!” Having the whole South Central Library System to pull from has been very powerful. Without it, I don’t know how our teachers would have managed.
I remember sitting in pre-calc class my sophomore year, it was the end of the school year so we were finishing up the unit and preparing for exams. One of my friends in the row behind me, a boy named Jack who was a year above me, leaned forward and said, “Would you be interested in working at the library?” I said yes, not knowing that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love working at the library, it’s really great. I get to help so many people. One time an elderly lady came in and asked for my help on the computers. Turns out she had won some grocery coupons but could not figure out how to redeem them. Slowly but surely, I helped explain to her how to use her email to get to the website, and showed her how to pick what coupons she wanted. She was so beyond grateful, that was one of my favorite days at the library.
I think that younger generations today don’t understand how great libraries are. I had a friend who wanted to read a series, so he went out and bought all the books; did he not understand he could check them out from the library for free? I’m always delighted when my friends ask me to order them a book, or ask if they can participate in a program. In a perfect world, everyone would understand how incredible libraries really are.
I was pretty much staying at home after my husband died, until I joined the writers group. Now I have this whole other life – or two or three. I’m enjoying it so much, and really it’s changed my life, because of the people I’ve met in the group. When people write, they reveal so much of themselves, it really becomes a close group.
I always wonder what people do, who perhaps don’t move into a church for any reason. Where do they start? I would definitely suggest they go to a library and hang around. If you go to a new town, just get a library card, and hang around the library a while, and you’ll be all set. It’s a social place. I meet people that I never see otherwise, and I meet new people, too. Somebody that I just fell into conversation with, it turned out we had a lot in common and we ended up new friends.
But I’m a terrible curse on the library. I have this unreasonably awful laptop computer that just demands patience I don’t have, knowledge I don’t have, internet I don’t have, and things are going wrong constantly. I feel very embarrassed that I use the library so much for help with the recalcitrant laptop, but I don’t know where else to turn. The fact that the library educates me for the new tech world is just a gift from God. It’s wonderful.
Also, the books! I probably read four or five a month. I always have two or three going. It’s a revolving collection. If I didn’t have the library to get them, I don’t know what I’d do. How could anybody exist without a library? I mean, who’s got all the money?
For 18 years, I lived in South America, Bolivia and then in Chile the last three years. I loved the experience, everything about it. But I hated the fact that there were no libraries. In Bolivia, there was a library – the National Library – only a block away, but you had to have special permission to go in, and no one was permitted to check anything out. So I suffered for years, not having enough to read. I joined a book club that North Americans had organized. Each of us bought two books from the list provided, and once a month we got together to exchange books. But I always finished reading them long before the month was over.
Well, what first brought me to the library was that I needed a quick copy for something. We moved out here…oh, at the end of the month it’ll be seventeen years. And I hadn’t been in a library since back in the seventies when I was going to college! But the local Xerox machine was here in the library, so I was here for that.
The first time that I really extensively used the library was back in the summer of 2012. I found myself unemployed after how many years, and they no longer put the ads and stuff in the paper so much anymore, it’s all online. I was talking to my best girlfriend, and she said, “Bonnie, just go down to the library. You can get a free Gmail account down there, and search online,” – she gave me a couple of ideas as far as the websites. And I said, what the heck? Let’s give it a try! I would come here almost on a daily basis to check my email, etc. and even posted my resume on the job sites. Everybody was so helpful and as far as, “OK, now how do I post my resume?” ‘Cause you know, I’m not real computer-savvy. I redid it, and printed it, and then was able to put it on the job sites. And it took me…well, three or four months, something like that, to find a job.
And then I had picked up another job only by word-of-mouth, not through a library search, and I had an accident at work. I had to have like 10 days off for my hand to heal, and that was part of my decision to leave that job, because no one was really concerned, and I was just very disgusted with the job generally. So, I spent most of the 10 days down here actually, back on the websites. And I have now had the same perfect job for seven months. So it worked out very, very well. It’s amazing what you can do with a computer. Most of my computer background had been work-related, you know their own little websites for purchasing as well as messaging and training, and I don’t have a computer at home. I never thought about coming to the library to look for a job! Very pleased. I still stop by and say hi to Deb. We formed a relationship during all those months of job searching. Now I’ll be in at the post office, and I’ll think, “Well, I’ll see what Deb’s doing, see if she’s in…” and I’ll pop in and say hi, or run into her at the grocery store.
It started off as a way for me to read the 100 greatest books of all time, it became how Addison and I found reading together. Working mostly 2 jobs and raising a family did not afford me much time to read, but I always knew I wanted to read the greatest novels. My aunt was a teacher and principal, and always encouraged me to read as much as possible. I was always more interested in playing baseball. My wife and daughter had started Addison with the basics of Dr Suess, and the Hungry Caterpillar. He seemed to really from a very early age always wanting to be “lost” in a book. He was always picking up whatever book we had a read it with a passion. So one day I went to the library in Verona and got a card. I started checking out books for myself, and taking Addison with me, he would go over to the children’s section and look at what book cover interested him. As time passed, he would choose his own books, and I would check them out on my library card. Then he decided he wanted to at the book check-out station, and scan the books himself. That grew to him telling me it would be “smarter”, and easier on me if he had his own card. Do they let kids have their own cards?
So Addison decided it was time to ask the lady at the desk what he needed to do to get his own card. So now armed with his own card he was free to roam the children’s section on his own, or so he thought with Grandpa hovering with a watchful eye nearby. Now, he reads so intently and so much it has become a Herculean effort to keep up with the latest series he is on. It started with Tom Swift Jr series that was almost impossible to find. The series of 57 books would only have been possible with the extra efforts of Mark Cullen, the man at the reference desk in Verona. With his help, I have attempted to stay up with the latest Rick Riordan, Chris Grabenstein, JK Rowling, and other author and title that catches Addison interest! As I now have become at least somewhat perficient on placing holds on books that Addison wants thru the LINKcat system, I have to put “on hold” more and more to stay ahead. It really has become a challenge to stay ahead of his ability to rad almost non-stop. What a great way to spend time with your grandson, getting lost together in the joy of reading, and knowing that he will always be just fine as long as he has a book to read, and a quiet place to read it at. What a nice thing to know as a grandparent that at only 9 years old, Addison knows what it took me fifty years to figure out!
A few years ago, the city of Stoughton wanted to cut Library funding. A number of people came to a City Council meeting and spoke. One woman shared this moving account.
"I’ve struggled with depression all my adult life. A few years ago, after a suicide attempt, I ended up in the psych-ward at one of the Madison hospitals. One of the kinds of therapy they had is called occupational therapy. One of the things I did for occupational therapy was to make necklaces by putting beads on strings.
As it turned out, I really liked doing that, so after I went home, I went to buy materials so I could make necklaces at home. However, there were so many choices and types of materials, I was overwhelmed.
My husband suggested I go to the library and find out more about this new hobby I wanted to engage in. I did, and after reading through several books, I knew how to get started.
As the months went by, thanks to books I continued to borrow from the library, I learned the proper ways to make not only necklaces, but earrings and bracelets. I learned what tools I would need and how to use them. I also learned the proper ways to use findings (the clasps and connections) and how to use colors and shapes for my designs. I even learned to do wire wrapping and how to make my own polymer clay beads.
What began as therapy, became first a hobby and, thanks to the availability of library books, is now a business for me. I’ve been selling my creations in stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota. If it wasn’t for the books available at the Stoughton Public Library, I’d still just be putting beads on a string!"
I often work with a cracker-jack reference librarian to get unusual materials through Outer-Library Loan. It is interesting to see where they come from. I have received books from Alaska - twice!