Happy National Library Week!This week libraries all over the country are celebrating National Library Week. I’m a library professional with 25 years in the business and darn proud of it. I’m proud of the free services libraries provide, the information we disseminate, the hands we hold, the things we teach, the lessons we learn from our patrons.
I talk to people all the time who say they don’t like to visit the library anymore. We have inconvenient hours (like 65 hours over 7 days each week aren’t enough?), we have impossible rules (return those books on time? Horrors!), and we ask our customers to pay for materials they damage or lose (take responsibility? You’ve got to be kidding!). Besides, the Internet is available 24 hours a day, isn’t it?
Yet, I ask you, where else can you go where you ask for help and somebody actually helps you? Have you ever tried to call your Internet provider with a question? As far as I can tell, most of them don’t even have phone numbers. And you know what? Librarians are happy to help you…and we’re right there in your community, not Bombay.
People always tell me I should write a book about working in a library, but I gotta say, no one would believe it. (Actually, I did write a book about a librarian, and guess what, nobody believed it). We see a lot of really nice people in the library each day, but we also get a lot of crazies in there, too. I guess every public place does, but we actually feel a responsibility to be nice to them.
Miss A used to come in the library every Sunday to look at the classifieds. She always claimed to be helping other people find jobs. She lurked around the library, trying to catch the employees in some illegal act, then would call me, and, using a false name, would complain about them and tell me they should be fired. She had a very distinctive voice and I always knew who she was. I wonder if she thought she’d get the jobs of the people she wanted me to fire.
Mr. B calls the library a couple of times a week to make suggestions about how he thinks the library should be run. It’s impossible to get him off the phone in less than 20 minutes. He always starts out by telling me what a great guy his is and how he’s sure he reads more books each week than anybody else in the community. Thank you, sir. I’ll take your suggestion under advisement.
On the other hand, Mrs. C loves the library and we love her. She never hesitates to tell us how much she appreciates what we do. She suggests books for the collection and books she thinks we personally would like to read. She makes fantastic oatmeal raisin cookies. She helps with our most important youth program each year. She has the most marvelous laugh.
Mr. D is 92 years old. He still comes into the library several times a week. His smile lights up the room. Need I say he loves the library? But more important, he believes in libraries and does everything he can to support us, especially at budget time.
Libraries have been a part of the landscape in this country from the earliest days. I’m sure Christopher Columbus had books on the Pinta. Ben Franklin, that wise old soul, felt so strongly that an educated society was a free society that he loaned out his own books. Andrew Carnegie donated millions to build libraries in every corner of America so that people who could not afford to buy books could share with their neighbors.
If you don’t patronize your local library, please reconsider. Take a look at the library’s website. Explore their services. I think you’ll be impressed. Then, take the next step. Check out a book, a DVD, an audio book. Attend a program. Visit the used book store or sale. Every library, whether large or small, has something to offer the individual. Then, step up and be an advocate for increased budgets and improved services. Without the support of the people libraries cannot continue to thrive.
Do it now. Once they’re gone, we’re going to be sorry.
For more information on all types of libraries, visit www.ala.org, the American Library Association.