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.
The green sticker on the edge of this book says, "Serendipity Collection." I have no idea why this sticker is on this book. But I do know that today was hard. I had lots of questions about moving to Wisconsin. About leaving Iowa. About leaving family and friends. Why are we here? I also know that this book had a mile long wait list when I last looked to check it out a month ago. Today I was going to take my kids to the children's museum. Turns out it's closed on Monday.
So we went to the library. I walked in and this was staring at me on the shelf. It felt like a hug from the universe that I needed right then. Serendipitous. I don't have all the answers about why we moved, but I do know that I was supposed to walk into the Middleton, WI library today. So there's that.
Evelyn attended the library’s Minecraft Club. She likes the library because she can learn new things and it is easy to find new fantasy books and series. The library is full of interesting things and activities, including play areas for her baby sister.
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.
I attend the community meal at the Badger Prairie Needs Network and I discovered a fellow library-user was doing the same. Now we ride together to the meal. The library is a community hub for me.
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”.
When I was a freshman we moved from Brooklyn to a farm south of Dayton, and I think probably the first time I came into town I came and got my library card. I had had a card in Brooklyn – they don’t have a library anymore in Brooklyn – and I read every Bobbsey Twin book that was ever written. That’s where I began.
The library here was the old building, in Library Park, up those stairs, those rickety stairs. It wasn’t open every day, but I know it was Wednesday nights and I think Saturday nights. Possibly some daytime hours, but being from the farm you could really only generally come in Wednesday night or Saturday night. When I got a teaching license and taught in Attica. The librarian and I worked out a plan that I could bring students in every two weeks so they could check out books – because at the rural school there wasn’t a very big library. We didn’t have that many kids either! The school clerk and I packed ‘em in two cars and came and got books.
And then later on in the years I moved into town and was appointed to the library board, was Treasurer of the library, and at that time that meant that I paid the bills, including the payroll and so on. But it was always fun. On December 31st I’d come in and knock on wood, and every year it balanced to a penny. I think I skipped all the way home, just so happy. I helped organize the first Friends of the Library. We had a quilt raffle and we tried to have some activities, but you know, as things go in cycles, people moved away, and got older, and it kind of fizzled out. But now it’s reborn again. I worked here for 10 years after I retired from teaching.
And now I volunteer at the Senior Center, which for a while there was just across the hallway. That’s actually how I got started. The director there said one morning, “We need a Meals on Wheels driver. Can you work it?” And I didn’t work in the library Wednesday mornings. It’s surprising, amazing how many connections you form. One of the current library board members, when her daughter was little she saw me on the street. And it was a shock that I wasn’t in the library, so she yelled, “There’s Library Bob!” That’s how I got my nickname. My feelings about the library…warm and fuzzy. And it’s exciting to think what you might find there. It’s a friendly place. I look forward to coming to the 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.