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.
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’ve worked in libraries since I was 11. I volunteered in my middle school library; then became a page for the Public Library of Hamilton County and Cincinnati. I chose to attend Bowling Green State University because they offered an undergraduate degree in Library and Educational Media. I received my MLS immediately after college. I knew I wanted to be a librarian and that was my only goal and priority. I wanted to help people become whatever they wanted to be or wanted to learn. I also got a teaching degree but felt that the classroom was too limiting in reaching all types of people with all types of stories, needs and desires. I loved working in the public library because in one day I could talk with grandfathers, teens and toddlers. I’m not sure what came first; the librarian or the desire to be helpful and knowledgeable. All I know is that even in the grocery store I am the person people turn to for advice on spice selection and on the street I am the person they stop when they need directions. And I am glad they do.
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.
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.
My family first lived in Sheboygan Falls. We moved there when I was 10. One of my main memories is that we got asked to march in the parade as part of the library float. All the girls dressed-up as Cleopatra. We had no idea who Cleopatra was. I felt like a celebrity because I was associated with the library.
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.
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.