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.
One afternoon Patricia Butler was in the library looking for some old articles in the McFarland Thistle (formerly McFarland Community Life). Patricia had stopped by on her way home to Minnesota to see if she could find something about her sister, Marie Udulutch, former publisher of McFarland Community Life, and the fire that destroyed the building where the newspaper was made one fateful day in the 1970’s.
She didn’t have much more than that to go on, but with the help of Newspaper Archives database and the bound back issues of the McFarland Community Life newspaper that are stored in the Local History Room at E.D. Locke Public Library, information was found. The articles were forwarded on to Patricia and will be used in her sister’s retirement party presentation this fall. Newspaper Archives and the Local History Room newspaper archives certainly guided and transformed Patricia’s research.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!"
I love this place. Just love it. It is my home away from home. I love the warmth of the people, and some people are just born with this warmth. Other places do not feel like this. I am a people person, and like to talk to people and I need to mingle. I think that sometimes, perhaps living in a place like this where things can get dreary, if you are people person you have to get out and be around other people. Librarians are a special bunch. Just really, very special. They are like teachers. They, well I assume, are very underpaid like teachers. What job could be more important?!
I am from Argentina, and I came to California a long time ago, two wives ago. I never went to school for English, I taught myself. I read and read, but my writing is not so good. Sometimes I think of a word and it doesn’t always translate to English, so I think, I will ask the Librarians about this word. They will know. And you do! You always do. Everyone here is just wonderful. Some are more shy than others. We all need to keep learning. I believe we all have something to learn from everyone – anyone can help be a guide in your life.