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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Caleb attended the library’s Minecraft Club. He really likes reading. The library is the perfect place because he doesn’t have to buy the books he wishes to take home and he can check them out and read them at home.
I hired a 52 year old data analyst in Room B last week. Using the library study rooms for interviews gives me quiet space, I don’t have to buy something, and people feel comfortable meeting here because it’s a library.