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 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.
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!"
It’s 1977 and I’ve just moved with my family to Rice Lake and started the sixth grade at Rice Lake Middle School. Not an easy transition at 11 and starting middle school as the new kid. I found a home and an ally in the library and Mrs. Bloedow, the school librarian. It was a safe place where I felt comfortable and among my friends - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and more.
After school, I spent a lot of time at the Rice Lake Public Library waiting for my parents to pick me up and I got to know Nancy Zabel. Or, I should say, she got to know me. Once I was old enough, she helped me pick out some authors in the adult fiction section that I grew to love. And, she was always there to help with homework questions.
It’s weird, then, that I never thought of becoming a librarian as my profession. I started college and loved all my English lit classes and that ended up becoming my major. Then, my husband and I moved out to Logan, Utah where he started graduate school and I looked for a job.
After a few months at the newly built Shopko (yay for Wisconsin connections!), I got a job at Merrill Library at Utah State University. It was 1989, I was 23, and the new Night Circulation Supervisor. This meant that I worked the circulation desk and supervised students who were about the same age as me. I’m not sure what my supervisor, Dorothy Pope, saw in me but I am so glad she gave me a chance. I thought my colleagues in the Reference Department had the best jobs and several of them encouraged me to pursue librarianship as a career.
Wow - that’s almost 30 years in the library world. I’ve always been of service in my jobs - waitress/server, bank teller, circulation supervisor, reference librarian, and now CE Consultant. For me, that’s what it’s about being of service to my community and my community is my fellow library colleagues.
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”.
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.
It started off as a way for me to read the 100 greatest books of all time, it became how Addison and I found reading together. Working mostly 2 jobs and raising a family did not afford me much time to read, but I always knew I wanted to read the greatest novels. My aunt was a teacher and principal, and always encouraged me to read as much as possible. I was always more interested in playing baseball. My wife and daughter had started Addison with the basics of Dr Suess, and the Hungry Caterpillar. He seemed to really from a very early age always wanting to be “lost” in a book. He was always picking up whatever book we had a read it with a passion. So one day I went to the library in Verona and got a card. I started checking out books for myself, and taking Addison with me, he would go over to the children’s section and look at what book cover interested him. As time passed, he would choose his own books, and I would check them out on my library card. Then he decided he wanted to at the book check-out station, and scan the books himself. That grew to him telling me it would be “smarter”, and easier on me if he had his own card. Do they let kids have their own cards?
So Addison decided it was time to ask the lady at the desk what he needed to do to get his own card. So now armed with his own card he was free to roam the children’s section on his own, or so he thought with Grandpa hovering with a watchful eye nearby. Now, he reads so intently and so much it has become a Herculean effort to keep up with the latest series he is on. It started with Tom Swift Jr series that was almost impossible to find. The series of 57 books would only have been possible with the extra efforts of Mark Cullen, the man at the reference desk in Verona. With his help, I have attempted to stay up with the latest Rick Riordan, Chris Grabenstein, JK Rowling, and other author and title that catches Addison interest! As I now have become at least somewhat perficient on placing holds on books that Addison wants thru the LINKcat system, I have to put “on hold” more and more to stay ahead. It really has become a challenge to stay ahead of his ability to rad almost non-stop. What a great way to spend time with your grandson, getting lost together in the joy of reading, and knowing that he will always be just fine as long as he has a book to read, and a quiet place to read it at. What a nice thing to know as a grandparent that at only 9 years old, Addison knows what it took me fifty years to figure out!
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 set things up in such a bad way for myself early on in high school. Hating the system, people in it, the feeling that teachers didn’t care to actually teach me. Eventually I gave up on academics. I switched to Shabazz City High and things got better but what remained of my earlier high school years came back to haunt me right as graduation was coming. I was behind in credits and struggling to figure out what to do.
Work or Volunteering was suggested. When I couldn’t find a job I only had one option left. I had to muster up a lot of courage just to go to the help desk where Joe Kester was sitting that day. He was quick to help me with the application process and directed me to Liz Amundson. I was nervous but even early on it felt like I was cared for and that she was genuinely rooting for my success. Liz took extra time to help me understand what I needed to do and work out a plan for me.
Things have been pretty smooth sailing since. I never felt uncomfortable in the space she and the people working here made for me. It’s felt pretty surreal. I’m somewhere I almost thought I was never gonna be. In these 7 weeks I have had a great time working with children here, making masks and face painting. I have made book displays and helped the people coming in to find what they need, and I have cleaned more DVD’s than I ever thought I would. Now after 90 hours, I can say I am a high school graduate and I can not stress enough how grateful I am.