Libraries – power, joy and passion.

 

I unabashedly love libraries…all kinds of libraries!  Big libraries, small libraries, old libraries, new libraries and public libraries as well as school libraries.

In several conversations over the past few weeks about libraries, I realized that most people spoke from quite differing viewpoints. There were positions for or against different formats, different customer service ideals, different expectations concerning funding sources, overdue fines, bestsellers, computer usage….you name it. Nearly anything that could be viewed differently…was viewed differently. I left the conversations with a nagging uncertainty. How could there be so many different ways to think about the role of libraries?

I realized that I understood why I loved libraries. I know why I am a passionate believer in the power and joy that libraries can bring to people’s lives. But maybe, many other people had a library experience that was quite different than mine. Those personal life experiences about libraries give then their own unique understanding,  perspective and values.

My love of libraries has been influenced by a number of experiences during my life. As an early elementary student – the county bookmobile stopped in our neighborhood, on our street. With no nearby library and no 2nd family vehicle, the rolling library brought far away places and people right to me.  The arrival of the big, noisy, smelly,  black bus, brought yells of excitement and a mad dash home to get our library cards. Stepping inside and seeing all those books and getting to take two home to read and then return again for more adventures a week later was pure magic. Would it be a Hardy Boys mystery and maybe a book about some wild animal or outdoor adventure? During the summer, those new books were sure to mean a few late nights with the flashlight under the covers.

The bookmobile was followed by our school library. A K-8 private school – with a small, lovingly created collection. Compared to the bookmobile, the options seemed unlimited. For the first time, I saw encyclopedias and dictionaries and amazing nonfiction to do homework assignments with. The big, real world was there in those pages.

High school brought an even larger collection. Remember a time when reference was the dominant part of high school collections? No internet, no google – just print reference. Anything you needed to know were in those pages. Granted – it took hours and sometimes days, but it was in there. Then came a college library in the 70’s that seemed like a warehouse filled with the world’s knowledge. Those old, musty books, the quiet spaces, the decades old single carrels tucked away – seemingly locked away from the rest of the world. Endless days spent exploring, thinking and writing in the world of science, literature, philosophy and more. Group projects meant, index cards, stacks of books, quiet debate and mountains of yellow legal pads of hand scratched notes – the words, numbers and scribbles that occasionally evolved into stories, or projects to be proud of.

As a twenty something trying to make it on my own – working, having fun, learning about life – I moved 4-5 times chasing career opportunities. Each new city or town had a library that offered advice and information as I tried to learn and become a better manager and professional as well as just getting acclimated in a new community. In my 30’s, marriage and family brought the joy of the bedtime story. There is nothing better than a new stack of picture books from the library and having an infant or toddler on your lap turning the pages and loving the moment.

As a professional traveling and working with both school and public libraries, I continue to see all the magic in those rooms and buildings filled with information, computers, librarians and customers and students – all in search of sharing and or receiving the power and joy that libraries offer. I am especially encouraged to see how many libraries, school and public, are moving to further enhance their sense of community and personal interaction. It is no longer just about the content – increasingly it is about the people connections. As the world gets “flatter” and we can interact with people and places from around the globe in an instant, our libraries offer unique opportunities for learning, sharing and engagement in our local and expanded communities. I understand we have many problems: funding, staffing, changing technologies, leadership challenges and increasing competition. But all of those problems have solutions.

Maybe it’s time we stop and take the time to ask questions and really listen to each other.  We all have a library story to tell. It is within these life experiences that our passion for libraries resides. Maybe it’s time we ask: staff, customers, local government leaders, school educators and especially our kids to explain why – “Libraries are important to me because…?” From these stories come our passion for library advocay. Let’s talk…. and listen.

Maybe it is within these shared stories and understanding that we will find our common ground, the new ideas and the courage to solve our many challenges. Passion always triumphs over fear.


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5 Responses to “Libraries – power, joy and passion.”

  1. Bill Kinzler Says:

    Brad, great story. So true, every library has it’s own “story”. Whether it was the library at St. Alexis, the library at IUP and Northland library. Brought back memories of the bookmobile that would come to Van Buren Point during the summer.

    • Brad Fish Says:

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your comment. Being reminded of the positive experiences of our live’s help us to be so very grateful of the gifts and experiences we have had. Have a great day!

  2. Leigh Anne Says:

    Three of my favorite words: libraries, magic and joy. 🙂

    I think fear also springs from people’s concern that they might be left out of the magic. Opponents of, say, gaming in libraries probably aren’t so much anti-gaming as they are worried that more games means fewer books. Or newspapers. Or whatever THEY find magical. Which, of course, it doesn’t – or doesn’t HAVE to.

    Making room for everyone’s library stories guarantees that everybody who wants to will have a place at the table, no matter how old they are or what they’re interested in.

    • Brad Fish Says:

      Leigh Anne,

      Great point! Just because new things are discovered and added to libraries for some people doesn’t necesarily mean the end of the things that other people love. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Megan Says:

    i’m just a kid but i love libraries. my friends dont really share my enthusiasm but i love the smell of new books and the places my fiction books take me!

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