Library is more than books and borrowing
Even the local librarians refer to our family's book collection as a "branch library," so why would we think the library is so important? Why would the staff notice if a week went by that we weren't there? Perhaps it is because we all recognize that the library is more than books and borrowing. Though our borrowing habits are very beneficial to the library's circulation statistics, our presence and purpose in the library goes far beyond the obvious.
The library is a gathering place: for ideas, for activities, and for people. Its bulletin board widens the horizons of the community, serving as a place to post notices of meetings, job vacancies, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming events for the community and its surrounding area. The rooms within the library provide meeting places for diverse groups to share their activities in a central location. The library hosts special speakers, artists, and musicians for the enrichment of the community -- all without cost to the individual. From children to the elderly, there are events available to all for broadening perspectives, refreshing the spirit, and exploring new interests.
The resources in the library allow a common ownership and storage of materials more vast and varied than any one person or group could possibly afford, manage, or provide. Books, computers, digital and recorded materials, as well as archived information and the technology on which to view it, reference volumes, and even framed art are available for use, and much of this can be borrowed -- some of it for as long as three months, provided that no one else has requested its use. Additionally, the library can access materials far beyond the physical borders of its own space, due to the inter-library loan system.
Aside from a place for meeting and materials, the library provides many opportunities for service. Some people volunteer by shelving books, others by providing literacy services and tutoring. Our family, however, has enjoyed sharing our knowledge and skills through participation and leadership in puppet shows, discussion groups, and activity sessions offered by the library. We've taken our turn to show various family collections in the monthly rotating display case. Through our involvement in library programs, we've enriched our own lives as well as the lives of others.
Beyond the obvious reason for its existence, by far the best hidden benefit of the library is the freedom to enjoy just being there -- to read, to think, to create, or to play games in a physically and emotionally relaxing environment. It is at the library that we've had both planned and chance encounters with friends, and at the library we have met and made new friends, including the staff. Admittedly, we've also parted with some old friends at the library, too, via the donation of materials we no longer use. However, we've also found the library book sale a great place to add to our personal book and media collections. After all, we have our "branch library" reputation to keep up!
Seriously, I can't imagine life without a library. Those who are unaware of its varied services and benefits, of which I've only mentioned a few, are missing out on one of the most enriching places their tax dollar provides. After all, it's like a second home for some of us!
--Teresa Wright Page, Monroe Public Library (05/10)