Some years ago, when I was working in social services with children and families, I acquired a personal librarian. I shared her with several thousand people, because she worked for the public library, but whenever I needed a book for myself or one of the kids I worked with, she was there with recommendations. She constantly suggested things I would never have thought of and helped me find information without attaching any judgment to it. She found new music and programming ideas and supplemented our plans with other materials. She made sure I had the schedule of all the library programs, so that we could bring the kids for special events or just stop by to do a craft. She even referred me to other community resources a few times.
She was and is outstanding, both as a person and a librarian, and she was also a friend of mine from a past career, but I know I wasn’t special. She would have done the same thing for anyone who walked in the door. I’d sometimes think how wonderful it was to get all of that for free – and then I’d realize it wasn’t free. My taxes paid for it. She was a public servant, and her work to help me do a better job working with children and families was making the whole community a better place. How amazing! I hear people complain about paying taxes and big government. If she’s big government, I’m all for it!
Flash forward several years and a few career changes. That same personal librarian suggested I volunteer for the library when I was between jobs. Not long after that, I applied for and got a job there. Now that I’ve worked there a few years, I feel even more strongly about the value of public libraries. Yes, we’ve got books, CDs, DVDs and other materials. Sure, we have story times for kids and hangout times for teens and book clubs for adults. Yes, we have free wi-fi and computers people can use to check email or apply for jobs or whatever. We’ve also got ebooks, informational databases, and even an app you can download to learn a language. The definition of the “public goods” our patrons receive is long, longer than most of our patrons and tax-paying citizens would realize. It happens in a public space – somewhere people of all backgrounds and incomes still gather. I may be biased since I work there, but many public libraries are like mine. Many librarians are like my personal librarian – helping people navigate the world we live in.
So, as a small valentine to all librarians, here are 3 ways to help your public library:
- Use it! Public libraries are there to be used. Find your own personal librarian.
- Donate money or time. Many libraries have had budget cuts in recent years. Even a small contribution of dollars or minutes can help.
- Speak up for your library. Join your local Friends of the Library group. Talk to people about what libraries mean to you. For more ideas, get your geek on at Geek the Library.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
― Neil Gaiman, author.