Stories about Connection

"We've been to 27 different libraries."
For the past five years, Sheila Klicko (left) and Alicia Bowens, both from Baraboo, have been making monthly visits to libraries across the South Central Library System. Why this library wanderlust? Because they value public libraries and and appreciate the services and resources they provide. Listen to their story.
"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 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!

"...the universal knowledge that librarians are the best people in the world."

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”.

"I felt like a celebrity because I was associated with the library."

My family first lived in Sheboygan Falls. We moved there when I was 10. One of my main memories is that we got asked to march in the parade as part of the library float. All the girls dressed-up as Cleopatra. We had no idea who Cleopatra was. I felt like a celebrity because I was associated with the library.

"It allows me to interact with people and make their days..."
"The library is a community hub for me."

I attend the community meal at the Badger Prairie Needs Network and I discovered a fellow library-user was doing the same. Now we ride together to the meal. The library is a community hub for me.

"How could anybody exist without 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.

“It’s been healing, and it’s been empowering…”

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!

"I found a home and an ally in the library..."

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 wanted to help people become whatever they wanted to be or wanted to learn."

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.

text graphic that reads "Because of You Libraries Transform"