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 guess you could say I founded the writers group. I’ve always enjoyed the book discussion group, and one day I asked if there’s ever been one for writers, and that was the beginning. I’m working on a memoir. That’s been rather healing for me. Some of it…well, I have an interesting story. I have five children – one biological and four adopted, one of whom was extremely traumatized, and it changed my whole life, changed all our lives. So part of it is about that. It’s been healing, and it’s been empowering, because I think, “Do I really share this or not?” As I get more comfortable with the group, I share more – even outside of the group. I’m braver about saying, well, this is how it is. The group gave me that. When you just put something out there – like if you’d write it on Facebook – you get some response, maybe, or no response. But if you’re in the room with people, and they’ve had two whole weeks to read it, then we talk about it. And it’s good to hear everyone’s comments. We just get to know each other better. That’s why we’re so friendly! We’ve shared so much!
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.
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 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”.
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!
I come here every day. Every day, because it’s important for my research. I like to sit in this spot, it’s like my office. I use the computers and printer and save thousands of dollars that I don’t have because I pay taxes and then use those benefits.
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.
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!"