Thursday, April 3, 2014

On National Library Week & Changing Lives


It would be difficult not to be inspired by the great author and lover of libraries Neil Gaiman’s 2013 lecture for the UK Reading Agency titled, “Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming.” Anyone that has read anything in support of libraries could have stumbled upon Mr. Gaiman sharing about the value of libraries and the difference they have made in his life – and this librarian would say, “Rightly so.”

It should come as no surprise that Gaiman has been quoted as saying about National Library Week, “You should be especially nice to a librarian today, or tomorrow. Sometime this week, anyway. Probably the librarians would like tea. Or chocolates. Or a reliable source of funding.” Of course, I would add being nice to library staff members, student workers, government officials that support library funding, and friends of the library to that list. 

I don’t tell you this to suggest that the reference desk (or the circulation desk or the technical services desk or the director’s desk) should be laden with chocolates and tea this year during the week of April 13-19. (Now, if you have an extra reliable source of funding lying around, by all means, laden us.) 

If it happens, it happens. 

That being said, National Library Week for me is less about my role as a librarian and more about the role of the library as a resource here on the campus of ETBU and in the community in which I live and work. 

What I would rather do is draw your attention to is this year’s theme that libraries do intend change lives. 

The American Library Association says this about the impact of libraries: 

“Libraries today are more than repositories for books and other resources. Often the heart of their communities, campuses or schools, libraries are deeply committed to the places where their patrons live, work and study.  Libraries are trusted places where everyone in the community can gather to reconnect and reengage with each other to enrich and shape the community and address local issues.”


In my brief years as a teacher, then public librarian, now academic librarian, I have learned that people have different experiences with libraries. For some the library becomes a sort of sanctuary – a safe, quiet place where they can retreat; for others, the library is a place to gather with other members of your community – an active place where important discussions take place; for me it has always been a place where  I can explore the ideas of others – believe it or not, I still have the very first public library card that was ever issued to me personally complete with my grade school attempt at a cursive signature! No matter what your experience with libraries, it is likely that whether you know it or not, a library has in some way changed your life.

This year for NLW we are asking our ETBU family to once again tell us about five books -- specifically, five books that have changed your life. Books have the ability to open up new ways of thinking for us to help us learn, develop empathy, and engage with others. That being said, I hope that this year during National Library Week you will also take a moment to remember that libraries change lives in ways other than just the books we collect. Libraries have the ability to change lives through free access to information, programs, education, technology, and much more. Won’t you show your Jarrett love, dear patrons, and join us in celebrating National Library Week 2014, April 13-19?

And now I ask you… How have libraries changed your life?

- by Elizabeth Ponder, Librarian & Manager of Instruction & Information Services

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