Tuesday, April 15, 2014
It’s National Library Week! Go kiss a librarian. Or not--s/he might not appreciate being smooched at the circulation desk. Maybe we should take them cupcakes. Or hug it out. Or both.
In case you can’t tell, I love me some librarians. And libraries. For me, going to a library is a lot like going to church, except I don’t wear yoga pants to church.
National Library Week, sponsored by the American Library Association, is a great time to A) Acknowledge the contributions of libraries and librarians (cupcakes!) and B) Promote library use and support.
How can you support your local library? Volunteer. Donate money. Urge your local officials to support library funding. Share your time, skills and enthusiasm. Join the Friends of the Library. Cull your home library and donate your surplus titles to the annual FOTL book sale. In short, do anything you can think of to keep your local library afloat. Because libraries offer much more than children’s story hour (although that’s important. Keep reading.)
• Ninety-two percent of libraries offer classes in basic computer skills. You can also attend financial seminars, historical lectures and forums on everything from climbing mountains to raising calla lilies.
• A thriving library system is a hallmark of a vibrant community. According to www.statestats.org, two-thirds of all Americans have a library card—and libraries offer more than 2 million educational programs for children each year. That’s a lot of literate little kids running around. And that’s a happy thought.
• Libraries are important job-network centers, providing free Internet access to employment databases, which—wait for it--helps people get employed.
• Libraries provide a link between government and citizens by helping users access public Web sites, and apply online for e-services. You can find out when local government meetings are scheduled, and pick up income tax forms.
Back to National Library Week. The first observance was in 1958. The theme was “Wake Up and Read!” a sentiment I endorse, although I prefer “Take a Bath and Read!” “Skip Housework and Read!” and “Eat Pie and Read!”
I grew up with three siblings on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and Mom taught us all to read before first grade. (There was no kindergarten in the Dark Ages.) But here’s the thing: When you teach children to love reading, they demand reading materials. That was a tough gig on a tight budget, but she canned vegetables and sewed our clothes and made it happen. She bought us picture books and Little Golden Books, encyclopedias and the Child Craft series, plus Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
The best part was this: One at a time, as we grew up, we were driven to the Onslow County Library to get our very own library card. It blew my mind that I could check out a stack of books for free. It didn’t seem possible. And Mom, God bless her, drove us to that library every Saturday without fail.
And so we read, me most of all. I read in bed, at the table and up in the maple tree. I read in the car, in the barn, in the tub. Some books made such an impact that I spent a small fortune buying early editions 40 years later. No-one else may understand why I display a frayed color-illustrated copy of “Misty of Chincoteague” in my house, but no-one else needs to.
Here’s how this story ends. I kept reading, earned an English degree, worked in print journalism and lived happily ever after. And I still go to the library, not because I have children, but because of what I’ll find: Knowledge. Excitement. Joy.
See ya there.
Julie R. Smith, who could never master the Dewey Decimal System, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.