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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fine-free teacher cards are huge. With the comprehensive literacy model, every lesson in the school is based around books – whether it’s science, social studies, reading, writing. Teachers are always looking for a great “mentor text” that can catapult their lesson. You have to have a great book. With our school library being the size that it is, I might have one or two copies of a text, but with four teachers doing the same unit at the same time, we might need eight. Beyond that, when the students have their free choice read, they want a wide variety of books on the topic that they’re learning. They’re making connections to what they’re learning about, and they think it’s cool. Especially the little ones, they’re just like, “Oh my god! Remember we just talked about this? Here it is!” And the teacher’s heart swells…”You get it!” Having the whole South Central Library System to pull from has been very powerful. Without it, I don’t know how our teachers would have managed.
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.