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.
I hired a 52 year old data analyst in Room B last week. Using the library study rooms for interviews gives me quiet space, I don’t have to buy something, and people feel comfortable meeting here because it’s a library.
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.
The library is a part of even my earliest memories. I clearly remember my parents telling me to say “thank you” to the librarians after they would hand me my books and, if I was lucky, my free sticker. Through the library’s encouragement, I became a lifelong avid reader, and quickly developed an aspiration to one day have a book of my own on a library shelf. That love of books has stuck with me, and now, nineteen years after I first started coming to the library, I’ve declared my college major in Creative Writing.
Of course, libraries are so much more than a collection of books. I started working at the Black Earth Public Library when I was 14, and continued the job all throughout high school and beyond, and it’s been a privilege to become friends with the wonderful people who make the library world go round. I feel as though I have a library of memories myself; of quiet days shelving books, of hectic ones working with children on various craft projects, and of the nights of games with friends made possible by generous librarians staying long after their shifts were finished, just to give us all a place to be together. That, more than anything, is what I want to make clear: that librarians are the best species of people. They will drive one home from work if need be, bring birthday gifts and Christmas gifts and Halloween gifts and regular-day gifts if it’s been too long since the last holiday. They’ll be ready with a story to tell or advice to give or food to hand out. Without librarians, a collection of books is just that--a stack of books. It takes a librarian to make those books into a library, and I’m honored to be able to say that I’ve worked among them for a few great years of my life.
In the TV show Parks and Recreation, the employees of the Parks and Rec department have a feud with their mortal enemy, the much-hated library. Librarians are made out to be demonic, soulless entities, the libraries themselves pits of festering evil. And it’s hilarious. Why? Because the running gag is an inversion, one which rests on the universal knowledge that librarians are the best people in the world. We can laugh when we see them labeled as uncaring because we are comfortable in the knowledge that that is the opposite of reality.
At one point, a character calls librarians “punk-ass book jockeys”, and for some reason this name stuck with me, because even though the joke was making fun of the assumption that librarians are a kindly but sleepy people, the truth is that librarians are pretty badass. They’re guardians of books and the people who love them. They’re fearless, boldly finding new ways to prove that in this changing world libraries are not only relevant but indispensable. That’s why, at a recent t-shirt tie-dye event at my local library, I made my shirt with a little extra care. It’s covered with sunbursts of pink and yellow and blue sharpie bled around by rubbing alcohol, the ingenious idea of--you guessed it--a librarian.
But my favorite part? Spelled proudly across the front in bold, black lettering is a proud proclamation: “Book Jockey”.
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.
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!"
So you know that restaurant, Altn’ Bachs? It’s off of Seminole Hwy. Anyway, they remodeled and took down all the photos of the local area teams they had. Well I asked them about it and they went down to the basement and pulled out a box of them for me. And I found it! So I then I brought it in to the library and had Jenny Carr make a photocopy for me and I have been taking it around and showing people. My wife has been giving me a hard time, but I do it anyway. I already asked Jean at the mall to guess and she couldn’t get it. Can you guess which one is me? I know, right! I was a skinny bugger. 145lbs. and 5’9”. I played everything and while I wasn’t necessarily that good, I played. I ran track too. Can you believe that? I was co-captain and I ran the ½ mile. I always wanted to play football too, but you see, I wasn’t big enough.
See this guy right here? He was one of my coaches. This guy was one of Madison’s all-time best coaches. World class, really. Earl Wilke. Everything is named after him. The gym, is. He lived right there on Woodrow. He helped me tremendously when I was a kid. Once I was awarded a star I had to go to his house to pick it up. I took my yearbook with me and asked him if he would sign it. And he did. He sure did alright, and you know what he wrote? He wrote, ‘To Bob, a real bugger.’ It meant so much to me, you know why? It meant that I was tenacious.
A woman came to the desk and simply said "Fulani". She spoke no English and we recognized "Fulani" as a West African language. We were able to call the city's translator service to get a Fulani translator who spoke to the woman and relayed to us that the woman is interested in English language classes. We also learned that she is homeless, having recently lost her home-stay arrangement.
We were able to relay opportunities at the Literacy Network for beginning English classes. We then called the United Way who provided another Fulani translator to offer shelter and food options for her. We got her a map and directions to each of these places, and printed a visual dictionary for her so she can point to pictures of food, a bed, and other services for future needs. By the time we were done, she just grabbed me in a bear hug and said "thankyouthankyouthankouthankyou". We were all glad that she chose to come to the library first.
I enjoy local libraries. I’m constantly bringing things home – for myself and my wife. There’s almost always something from the library in our home, whether it’s a book or a DVD or whatever. I like to read and research things. Nowadays it seems like most of my research takes place online. I don’t have internet access at my home, which is a couple of blocks from the library, so I come here most Fridays and Saturdays to keep up with correspondence – family, organizations and projects, and so on. It’s a pleasant place to visit. People are generally friendly and everything is nice here. I used to work in a library as a custodian in a small town, and that library is on the Register of Historic Buildings, so it was very cool from that standpoint – a lot of beautiful masonry and wonderful arches, original woodwork, the stairways were beautiful carved wood…it was really nice. But I mean, a building is a building, but people are what makes it real, what makes it pleasant or useful and helpful. This is a good place to be.
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.