Home > Writing and Poetry > Talk About A Mission Statement

Talk About A Mission Statement

When I listened to Ben Fudge’s words on how his book about Enrique had opened up a whole new world for so many readers as well as himself, I realized again how often profound change comes in such small packages as ideas and access.

Ben talked about his friend’s gift of education for those who’d never learned to talk or read or conceive of a world with those abilities within themselves. He spoke about one woman’s difference to an entire village because she could teach sign language to the deaf. And he spoke about his sense of need to tell the world about her work through the life story of one small boy who’d benefited from that work.

Both Ben’s mission and that of his friend, “the woman with the big red hair,” will continue for many years.

But what about the mission of the more mundane worker–the worker that you all know and take advantage of each year. I’m referring to the

THE BOOK LENDER. 

Libraries have been taking care of the reading needs of our citizens for centuries. When the layman became educated enough to read on his/her own, libraries began lending books for their use, be it for pleasure or additional learning. Many people grew into adulthood with memories of walking into the silent sanctum of dusty tomes, stern caretaker behind the tall counter, and dimly lit reading rooms.

Nowadays the picture has shifted to an entirely different concept of the world of library books and their caretakers. No longer will books be kept in darkened rooms peopled by silent patrons. The new libraries flaunt a new mission and platform.

In fact, our library has many programs for the public. It harbors a genealogical historian cluster of experts who assist patrons in mapping their own families while the experts also tackle some of the weightier investigations of public figures. That section of rooms has several missions of its own for native tribal cultures as well as other groups in and around the state.

The children’s portion of the library covers half of the first floor with the YA section upstairs with adult books and reference. There is a lending section of different media: periodicals, glossy mags, audio books, DVD and VHS lending, CDs, board games, playing cards and things I’d never seen before anywhere close to a library.

The meeting rooms are always busy with varying groups of people–writing groups, book clubs–children’s story time and adults–public speakers on subjects any university would be proud to sponsor, CPA’s during tax time assisting senior citizens and others with their tax returns, and other programs I’ve not yet seen firsthand.

I talked with one my local librarians the other day about the changing responsibilities and added duties of the library staff. She remarked about how busy she’d been that morning since the building had opened.

So many patrons had asked for her assistance that she couldn’t get any of her regular work done. In fact, the facility had brought in additional staff to tackle the continuing influx of readers.

We discussed the changing role of the library, and then she said a curious thing. She said, “I think the economy has brought more people back to the library than anything else. They can’t afford to buy books anymore for themselves. So they come here to find their reading material again.”

History repeats itself. With fewer dollars for magazines and books, more patrons come inside the local lending library. Yet, there are fewer dollars for the library as well. Their budgets have shrunk and still have to provide children’s programs, adult literacy programs, computer classes and public computer access. All of these activities come on top of the purchase of new books and magazines for lending.

When I watch those who come to look through the stacks for something to take home, I still see myself as a child doing the same thing. Wide-eyed wonder abounds at the possibilities of adventures and knowledge that I couldn’t possibly find anywhere else. However, in today’s library I know the fallacy of that concept today.

With the internet the entire world is at the fingertips of any who wish to take the ride along the cyber highway. There, too, the library leads the way. I took a class not long ago at my library, which taught the patron how to utilize the library’s own computer system and databases to find anything anyone could ever desire.

The research that cost me hundreds of dollars in graduate school for a library search I can do now for free and with a couple hours run time. It seems patrons are being encouraged to become independent researchers and pursuers of deeper knowledge.

Excitement welled up inside my heart. I’d been passed a special key only those of scholarship could appreciate to its fullest. I saw the grail that beckons every writer in my mind’s eye. Somewhere down that cyber highway existed Nirvana and I’d been given a hall pass. What more could I ever ask for in this life? How many hours would I save in my life of non-fiction research? The idea boggled the mind.

I looked at my instructor as he glowed at the front of the lab. His slightly overweight stature took on a grandeur that almost blinded. He had handed me the world and asked nothing in return. He had taught me independence and gloried in my mastery of it. Would any other ever affect my writing life as greatly as this young man?

I doubt it.

 And so, readers, I take my hat off to those unsung, and patient, individuals who guard that sanctum behind the glass doors and under the sign that says, “PUBLIC LIBRARY.” Take a moment to appreciate how much these guardians have given you during your lifetime and try to imagine a world without them.

Now, ask yourself, when dealing with cyberspace and its search engines–do we now consider those electrons of literary workers to represent the new space-age librarian? Just saying…

Have a great weekend, people. Play a little, work a little, love a lot.

A bientot,

Claudsy

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