Friday, June 19, 2009

The Community Library

I worked for seven years in academic libraries and found it worthwhile and fulfilling on many levels. There was a focus on formal learning and research, knowledge in depth, extensive research tools, and a community of scholars. But it wasn't quite my niche. I was looking for something broader, more encompassing and inclusive. I found it at the Appleton Public Library.

I love the fact that this is a place that welcomes all ages and income levels. e only criteria for using the public library are wanting to be here and civil behavior. We've made it easy because we need to be inclusive. We get the babies and the senior citizens. We get the able, the disabled, the well and the ill. We get the doctors, the judges, the preachers, and the homeless. We get the readers and the watchers, those who walk, and those in strollers or wheelchairs. We serve the nonprofit organizations, the business community, and the unemployed. We welcome everyone to a place which is, if not a community of scholars, nonetheless a community of learning, culture, and communication.

Communities and people need public libraries: places to read, talk, go to a 4-H meeting, a puppet show, or a discussion series on the Revolutionary War. Some of us may do research and social networking on home computers, but we need to physically gather with other humans, to ask questions, explore ideas, discuss and learn. We need to find what we’re looking for, but also to be surprised by all the things that are here and all the things others bring. In a democratic society, it’s vital that we create opportunities for everyone to learn – as each person determines their own wants and needs. And people need books, and will for years to come.

We need to be part of a diverse community, to offer and be part of equal opportunity, to seek the challenges of diverse people and different points of view.

Naysayers -- or those neither curious nor community-minded -- may say the day of the library, especially the public library, is past. Those who are paying attention, those who are engaged in making better lives and learning opportunities for themselves and all their neighbors, and the increasing numbers who use us, know better. That’s why U.S. News & World Report picked “librarian” as one of the top careers for 2009, saying “librarians are among our society's most empowering people.” We’re present – and we have a bright future.

Welcome to your public library. We’ll work to keep it welcoming for everyone.

from the Fine Print newsletter, Summer 2009

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