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!
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 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.
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.
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.
In early September Columbus Public Library, working in partnership with the WorkSmart Network, hosted a Work Local Job Fair. Julie Enloe of the WorkSmart network, who did the groundwork of inviting businesses to participate, said once they starting advertising to the public many employers reached out to say they wanted to be part of the event.
One participant said, "I think it's a great thing the library is hosting this. You've got a good variety of employers here and it's nice to see."
Marilyn Green, Director of The Meadows Assisted Living in Fall River, WI, said, "It's great to do something different than just put an ad in the paper. I'm appreciative of the opportunity to meet people face-to-face, in a central location everyone knows about."
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.
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.