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.
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 come here every day. Every day, because it’s important for my research. I like to sit in this spot, it’s like my office. I use the computers and printer and save thousands of dollars that I don’t have because I pay taxes and then use those benefits.
It’s 1977 and I’ve just moved with my family to Rice Lake and started the sixth grade at Rice Lake Middle School. Not an easy transition at 11 and starting middle school as the new kid. I found a home and an ally in the library and Mrs. Bloedow, the school librarian. It was a safe place where I felt comfortable and among my friends - Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and more.
After school, I spent a lot of time at the Rice Lake Public Library waiting for my parents to pick me up and I got to know Nancy Zabel. Or, I should say, she got to know me. Once I was old enough, she helped me pick out some authors in the adult fiction section that I grew to love. And, she was always there to help with homework questions.
It’s weird, then, that I never thought of becoming a librarian as my profession. I started college and loved all my English lit classes and that ended up becoming my major. Then, my husband and I moved out to Logan, Utah where he started graduate school and I looked for a job.
After a few months at the newly built Shopko (yay for Wisconsin connections!), I got a job at Merrill Library at Utah State University. It was 1989, I was 23, and the new Night Circulation Supervisor. This meant that I worked the circulation desk and supervised students who were about the same age as me. I’m not sure what my supervisor, Dorothy Pope, saw in me but I am so glad she gave me a chance. I thought my colleagues in the Reference Department had the best jobs and several of them encouraged me to pursue librarianship as a career.
Wow - that’s almost 30 years in the library world. I’ve always been of service in my jobs - waitress/server, bank teller, circulation supervisor, reference librarian, and now CE Consultant. For me, that’s what it’s about being of service to my community and my community is my fellow library colleagues.
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.
Virgil Westphal was referred to the library by the Village of McFarland Senior Outreach staff after his wife died and he realized without her help he didn’t know how to use his home computer. Katharine Clark, Adult Services Librarian, set up multiple hour appointments to introduce him to using email and getting online.
Virgil soon become a regular at the library and finally got a library card. The first book he checked out was “Computers for Dummies.” Virgil has now become a regular and has been convinced by his family to use a smartphone, which will mean more appointments to get him up to speed on more new technology. Virgil’s life has definitely been transformed by the E.D.Locke Public Library.
So you know that restaurant, Altn’ Bachs? It’s off of Seminole Hwy. Anyway, they remodeled and took down all the photos of the local area teams they had. Well I asked them about it and they went down to the basement and pulled out a box of them for me. And I found it! So I then I brought it in to the library and had Jenny Carr make a photocopy for me and I have been taking it around and showing people. My wife has been giving me a hard time, but I do it anyway. I already asked Jean at the mall to guess and she couldn’t get it. Can you guess which one is me? I know, right! I was a skinny bugger. 145lbs. and 5’9”. I played everything and while I wasn’t necessarily that good, I played. I ran track too. Can you believe that? I was co-captain and I ran the ½ mile. I always wanted to play football too, but you see, I wasn’t big enough.
See this guy right here? He was one of my coaches. This guy was one of Madison’s all-time best coaches. World class, really. Earl Wilke. Everything is named after him. The gym, is. He lived right there on Woodrow. He helped me tremendously when I was a kid. Once I was awarded a star I had to go to his house to pick it up. I took my yearbook with me and asked him if he would sign it. And he did. He sure did alright, and you know what he wrote? He wrote, ‘To Bob, a real bugger.’ It meant so much to me, you know why? It meant that I was tenacious.
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”.