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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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!"
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.