Off the Shelf: Hard To Leave
On a recent evening, one of our little library users was reluctant to leave. Her father tried to explain that the library was closing and the staff needed to go home to have dinner, just like she did. She countered with the classic “It’s not fair.” As they walked to the door, her patient father sympathized, “I know you love this place and don’t want to leave.” As they moved out of earshot, he asked, “What do you love about this place?” While I couldn’t hear her reply, judging by all the time she spent creating from the art cart and playing in the activity area, I think she likes having so much to explore and do at the library.
This sweet youngster isn’t the first to complain when it is time to leave. Over the years, we’ve seen quite a few tears and heard some pleading for just a few more minutes. While the parents might be frustrated in those situations, as a librarian, I see it as a good sign to hear kids love the library so much that they don’t want to leave.
The first time my picture appeared in a newspaper was a shot of me and my little brother riding behind my mother’s bike in contraption called a bugger. We were on our way to a branch of the Rockford Public Library.
Those trips are what hooked me on libraries. As a kid, I loved to explore the new books. Unlike when we went to the store, the library was a place where my mom could say yes to all the things I wanted to take home with me. The only limit was how much we could carry home on the bike. I’m sure there were times when I was that child asking for just a few more minutes and arguing that it wasn’t fair that we had to leave.
While it was the books that started my love of libraries, I grew to realize that libraries serve a broader role in communities. Someone recently told me how important it is to them that the library provides an even playing field. No matter who you are or how much money you have in your wallet, everyone who comes in the library has the same resources available to them. That is part of the beauty of public libraries and why librarians are regularly looking for ways to eliminate barriers that might be impeding someone from accessing library resources and services.
As our mission says, libraries “provide opportunities for all people to connect with others, learn about the world around them, and imagine the futures before them.” I’ve always liked the use of the plural futures here. Libraries let us see the wider world and give us opportunities to change and grow. We get to see that we don’t just have one possible path forward; instead we can explore possible new horizons.
For me, libraries are about helping people be successful, whether that is finding a new job or finding a good book. The library team walks beside people helping them navigate life by finding answers, providing tech help, offering a place to study, meet with a group, take a class, or spend time as a family, as well as connecting them to the right book at the right time.
If you don’t already have a library card or haven’t visited for awhile, stop by and explore all the library has to offer you. Find what you love about the place and what makes you want to stay for just a few more minutes.
September is Library Card Sign Up Month and has a few extra perks to getting a card, such as a coupon to the Footnotes used book store in the library lobby for anyone opening a new library account. If you already have a card, bring a buddy to get their card. You’ll be eligible for a prize and have the satisfaction of opening up a whole world of services and resources for a friend.
There is no cost to getting a library card. After showing your ID and filling out a short form, you will be able to borrow from over 160,000 physical items, get free online tutoring and resume coaching, read newspapers and magazines online, download music, stream movies, listen to audiobooks, read ebooks, and so much more.
After twenty years at the library and fifteen as director, I relate to that young girl who loves this place and is having a hard time leaving. My last day with the library is next week, and I’m off to explore the futures before me with a new library job in a new community.
I’ve enjoyed being part of a team that continuously works to make the library a community hub, build up outreach to connect with more people, and find new ways to improve service to residents and visitors. The team has several great projects on the horizon that I wish I could be here to see come to fruition.
I’ve gotten to work with many wonderful people and have enjoyed meeting lots of community members at the library. It is the people that are the hardest to leave. Thank you to all the staff team members, Board of Trustee members, members of the Foundation and Friends boards, and volunteers, present and past, with whom I’ve been honored to work. Thank you to our library users. It has been a joy serving you.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve this community.