Appreciating the ‘powerful good’ of the public library

As the American Library Association bestows its 2018 “I Love My Librarian” awards, librarian Kristen Arnett expresses her humble opinion on why visiting a library is the best way to show your appreciation:

Everyone says they want to support their local library, like they support using reusable water bottles, no cell phones at the dinner table, and the quiet car on trains.

But do they really? Folks tend to think of libraries in the abstract. It’s less a physical space and more of a concept, a powerful good in the universe that everyone believes in unconditionally, like Santa Claus or Beyonce.

So how do you support your library? Leave a nice comment on their blog? An appreciative Facebook post? A well-timed tweet about them that gets a zillion retweets?

“No, none of that. You can’t do it remotely. Don’t get me wrong. Give us compliments, please. Tell us we’re special. Venmo us coffee money. That’s all great.

But, at the end of the day, none of that matters if you don’t show up and use the library.

Libraries are community spaces. In order to operate, we need patrons. People have got to sign up for library cards, use the computers, and check out materials. Bug the library staff about that movie that doesn’t drop ’til next year. Jam the copy machine.

Actually, don’t.

Libraries serve the public by — get this — actually serving the public. If patrons don’t use our services, they inevitably get cut. We want to be there when you need resources for your term paper, want to register to vote, help you look up how to get gum out of your kid’s hair, assist with figuring out the correct pronunciation of hors d’oeuvre.

I’m still working on this one.

And research whether a tomato is actually a fruit.

We’re your living, breathing Google. And unlike a certain search engine, we will be patient and work with you when all you can remember is that the book’s cover is blue.

Fake news, we have been trained to spot it and combat it. We will help you fact-check. It’s our pleasure. It’s our calling.

But we can’t do any of this unless you darken our door. So, come out to the library and attend events. Request materials. Argue with the librarian over which is the best episode of “The Office.”

It’s “The Dinner Party.”

Or just talk to us about your day. We want the chance to serve the public, so stop by and let us do exactly that.

It’s like they always say: The first secret of success is just showing up.

The second secret? Find a librarian. We can help you with that.”

You can view the video of Kristen’s comments on the PBS NewsHour site.

, , ,

Comments are closed.