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 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.
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 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.
My hometown library was a house on our tree-lined Main Street. Dad was in charge of our weekly visits which were lively and much anticipated. My six siblings and I would scatter to our favorite areas of the library, always aware that strict and stern librarian, Miss Stafford, was keeping an eye on us.
Besides the creaky floors, my brightest library memory is discovering a series of children's books about inventors. I loved Elias Howe's name and his amazing sewing machine! Reading that book opened up a world I hadn't given much thought to before, so I read the whole series, and have never stopped seeking to understand, to know more, thanks to all of my public libraries.
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.
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.
Virgil Westphal was referred to the library by the Village of McFarland Senior Outreach staff after his wife died and he realized without her help he didn’t know how to use his home computer. Katharine Clark, Adult Services Librarian, set up multiple hour appointments to introduce him to using email and getting online.
Virgil soon become a regular at the library and finally got a library card. The first book he checked out was “Computers for Dummies.” Virgil has now become a regular and has been convinced by his family to use a smartphone, which will mean more appointments to get him up to speed on more new technology. Virgil’s life has definitely been transformed by the E.D.Locke Public Library.
After Dad went to a care facility, he and I had many conversations about his life. He was an amazing storyteller with a gift for theatrical embellishment. He told me about a coffee clutch conversation he and his friends had about the library and how one friend raved about all the stuff you could check out. He was so excited, he forgot I worked at the library and asked me if I knew about all the “stuff,” and could I believe it was free. In seconds it dawned on him and we shared one of our last bouts of hearty laughter. I miss him.