Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hungry? Go to a Library

Today in the library staff room, I had my choice of:

1. New England Baked Beans (warm, in a plugged-in crockpot)
2. homemade brownies
3. a 2-lb bag of Hershey's Miniatures
4. black jelly beans from Easter
5. foil-covered chocolate Santas
6. fudge from somebody's trip the Wisconsin Dells

What is it with libraries and food?

Revisiting the Library

My two nephews, ages 7 and 10, stayed with Aunt Michelle and Uncle Jason for a week in July. The extent to which I have cared for other beings includes experience with a goldfish named Tolstoy (Chekov, his partner in fishiness, died quickly), an onery orange tabby cat, a dwarf bunny dubbed Miss Buns, and a bi-eyed, lazy Siberian Husky who is new to the zoological family.

It is quite a shock to introduce two hyper young boys into a relatively quiet household. (Although fur- and hair-free, we are not.) I spent most of the week digging out random army men from the couch, clearing empty Capri Suns from behind the toliet (no clue there) and coming up with ways to entertain the kids.

Of course, a visit to the public library where I work was on the list. It felt very strange to walk in the doors in shorts and t-shirt. I realized it had been a very long time since I visited the library just as a patron, and not as a library worker in some form. Probably about ten years, I would guess. Even if I routinely stop into the library during my off-hours, it's not usually for the sole purpose of browsing the new book shelves for something tasty to read, or plonking down with the latest issue of Budget Living.

I have to say, it felt great to just be in a library again. As an adult services librarian, typically I don't make it down to the youth services department very often. It struck me as a joyful realization that the whole wide library was open to my nephews, to gather up and enjoy. I could sit with them in the faux train car that's in the middle of the youth department and read with them for hours. We could go to a cartoon program and sit in the middle of the half-moon rug. My nephews could discover the orange clown fish swimming slowly in the tank and exclaim, "Nemo!"

We indulged. The three of us read Batman comics and Frog and Toad on the bright blue, comfy upholstered chairs. The ten-year-old peppered the librarian on duty with questions about the graphic novel collection. The seven-year-old read aloud to me with his finger moving along the page, sounding out unfamiliar words and looking into my eyes for affirmation.

Being a patron reminded me of why libraries exist - not for legislators, not for the people that work there, not for community leaders - but for our everyday patrons that walk through the front doors seeking the services that libraries provide so freely.

Monday, August 08, 2005

What's Next? The Verizon Community Library?

Oh, yuck. The Rogers Public Library in Rogers, Arkasas just dedicated their new Wal-Mart Children's Library, named of course for the retail giant headquartered in Bentonville, AR. According to the article, Wal-Mart will also be helping out with the renovation of the entire library. Hm, I wonder what kind of collection policy Wal-Mart will be enforcing on RPL? "If you want new furniture, librarians, you have to promise not to buy that evil rap music..." Complete corporate sponsorship of public libraries is wrong on so many counts.