HAPPY NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK BOOKWORMS!
First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a nation-wide observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. All types of libraries – be it school, public, academic or special – are recognized and participate in this honorary week of recognition.
According to the ALA, "It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support." And guess what? I couldn't agree more! Libraries promote lifelong learning, equitable access to information and a love for literacy. They are safe havens and resource centers. Librarians are educators, friends, motivators, supporters and active community members. They are role models and tech support. The list goes on and on!
In 2014 there was one particular library that couldn't stay out of the headlines – for all the right reasons. I've posted a few times about the Ferguson Municipal Public Library in Missouri, located just blocks from where racially-fueled protests took place following the Michael Brown shooting and Grand Jury ruling. It was there at that tiny public library that Director Scott Bonner and his staff embodied what librarianship is all about, which ended up bringing the small library donations totaling more than $200,000.
After the unarmed Brown was shot by a police officer in last August, the St. Louis suburb was hit by escalating protests and civil unrest. But while local businesses and schools closed their doors as riots, violence and arson raged, the Ferguson library remained open.
"Just a few blocks from the clashes between protesters and police, Bonner, the only full-time librarian on staff, who had started the job just weeks earlier, set out a sign at the library doors saying 'Stay Strong Ferguson. We are family.' He then worked with volunteers, church groups and local teachers to put on educational programming for up to 200 children a day, said the ALA, while racial tensions were 'at a boiling point.'" – The Guardian
Bonner's exemplarily work recently won him the Lemony Snicket award, honoring “noble librarians faced with adversity.” He also put out this response on Twitter, and I think it says a lot about him as a person:
But I'll let you in on a little secret about this week: Even without it, librarians would still be more than happy to do what we are doing – to do what we love. Although I must to admit, a little public appreciation goes a long way.
For example, a few weeks ago I had an older library patron approach my desk and ask for some help planning an upcoming trip to Milwaukee. I helped her find an affordable hotel, contact information for the Mitchell Domes and the Milwaukee Art Museum, and even suggested a few restaurants for her to try out. Last Friday that patron came back to the library and rushed over to my desk, exclaiming "Oh I'm so happy you're here! I had such a wonderful time in Milwaukee! I couldn't have done it without you!"
I couldn't help but smile and feel reminded me why I wanted to work in a public library: to help people like her and to give back to my community. Much to my surprise, she returned again the very next day, with a vase of fresh cut flowers from her garden and a thank you card reading "It's people like you who make it possible for people like me to be thankful for people like you." If that doesn't warm your heart I don't know what will.
The truth is, there are countless interactions like that occurring between patrons and library workers each and every day. Do you have a special library employee in mind that deserves recognition? Nominate a stellar library worker today as part of National Library Workers' Day. And go and pay your librarians a visit at your local library while you're at it!