Hope: A Library

Hope: A Library

We librarians often like to talk about the library as a place. A place for people to gather regardless of belief or opinion or whether you have pocket change; a place for people to learn. All are welcome.

When sharing this concept of the library as a place with friends, family, colleagues from other departments in past and generally get the same response. A friendly smile and nod of the head, essentially a mild agreement, a sort of “what a nice thought, now let’s move on.”

I manage my local community library, which means I have the privilege of seeing my actual neighbors everyday at work. I hear about what they are doing, what they are looking for, what their families are up to. I also serve strangers who are passing through, people whose printer broke that day, parents who didn’t use the library in their 20s but are now bringing their kids for story-time.

Of course all of this ended 4 weeks ago, since then we have been closed to the public, still offering online services, virtual reference, Facebook Live story-times, and curbside pick-up. I have to admit this has not been easy, and I realized recently that I’ve been grieving what has been lost during this pandemic. I’ve had to deliver bad news to people I care about, I’ve felt scared and tired and frustrated. I have kept going, because really what other choice is there?

And yet, I’ve found hope, specifically through my work. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told “Thank you for doing this”, but I would guess it’s more than 100 times. A group of local women bought staff cookies from the neighborhood coffee shop. Another patron was nearly in tears thanking me for teaching her over the phone how to access the library’s eBook collection. People are finding comfort and a sense of normalcy from the library services we are providing. We have seen this before, during a particularly bad hurricane 9 years ago most of the community lost power, some lost water. There were shelters, but instead people flocked to the library as a place to shelter, to re-charge, to gather. Now we are in another storm, and although we can’t physically be the place for people to be, we are finding that we are still a key source of emotional support for the people we serve. Through the hardest moments I am reminded of this quote from Lewis Carroll:

One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.

This crisis will end, no telling how or when but it will eventually end and we will find ourselves on the other side of this. When it does, my hope is that the community will understand that we are better together, and that the library is a key component of what unites us. I see now even more than before that the library as a place is the core of what we do. The library represents the very best of a community can do when we work together, it is a place that provides knowledge, peace, and now, hope.

Trump budget eliminates funding for libraries (again)

Trump budget eliminates funding for libraries (again)

On the same day that the American Library Association (ALA) announced the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, and other notable book awards, the White House announced its budget, which cut all federal funding for America’s library services, also known as Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

This happened in 2017 as well, and libraries fought back, gathering bi-partisan support in Congress to continue library funding. IMLS provides all sorts of library services, but in my opinion it is most valuable in supporting more equal access to rural areas around the country. If you live in an area where no internet access is provided (my library serves a neighboring county where this is the case) then you are most likely to get your tax forms, apply for jobs, and do your homework in a library. Certain IMLS funds go directly to ensure that libraries in these areas can support these services, especially since they are less likely to receive the same kind of local support/funding that those of us in well-populated areas benefit from. Cutting IMLS from the budget is going to directly impact the people in these areas, they may well be those that need it the most.

If you are interested in showing your support for IMLS please contact your Congress-person and Senators. ALA has created this contact form which is quick and easy to use. Please also use the hashtag #FundLibraries in your social media posts.

“I had no idea librarians ______”

“I had no idea librarians ______”

All the time I have conversations with friends where I mention something about work and they go “Wow. I didn’t know libraries did that.” While it’s very easy to respond when people ask me what I do, it seems that most people have no idea what actually goes on inside a library, or what librarians actually do (hint: we don’t read books all day).

Several times a year an article comes out with a title something along the lines of “Why do we need libraries anymore?”, causing librarians around the country to lose their minds with worry and exasperation. We know what we do, we know who we help, but it’s an unseen help, people expect us just to be there like the post office or the power at their home. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.

In my relatively short career I have helped people work on documents to secure citizenship, find jobs, helped someone with no computer skills purchase plane tickets to visit her daughter, shown people how to use their eReaders and devices, helped people register to vote, worked extra hours to assist after a hurricane, helped someone write a book, helped people research their resent diagnosis, developed programs, found books for reluctant readers and the list goes on and on. These are not small things, these are things that keep the world turning that people would miss if they were taken away because “everything is on the internet now”. It’s not, and as it turns out a lot of things on the internet are complete and total garbage. What I do everyday keeps the world turning and offers a harbor of trust for the people who need it most. Yes, books are our signature product, but it’s not in the least the only product or service that we offer. As the director of my library often says, if we were just a place for books we would’ve been closed a long time ago.

Neil Gaiman once said “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” In the age where anyone can put out information as fact for the whole world to read, it’s more important than ever that libraries continue to offer help, information, and advice to those who need it most.