As a public librarian, I’ve given a great deal of thought to what the public library means to me. First of all, it is one of the most democratic institutions in our country. For no money beyond taxes anyone can access unlimited information. With determination and basic intelligence, a person can learn any task, master any skill, entertain themselves and their children, prepare for a job, cook, garden, craft, philosophize, and generally broaden their horizons.
Librarians take the notion of an open mind very seriously. In fact, our professional organization, the American Library Association, has a Library Bill of Rights. Number II states, “Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” One of my favorite quotes is that a good public library should have something to offend everyone.*
Working the service desk at a public library is akin to working as a bartender. People open up to you. They share their health concerns, their marital issues, their questions on child rearing, and 99 times out of 100, there’s a very good book for that.
Later this month, I start a new job, with the Athens Regional Library Service. Among other duties, I am charged with getting library services to the rural poor, those with no transportation and without internet service. I’ll be working on obtaining funding for a permanent structure for the Pinewoods branch, a facility currently housed in a double wide trailer in a predominantly Mexican mobile home park. We’ll be kicking off the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten campaign.
“To be a librarian is not to be neutral, or passive, or waiting for a question. It is to be a radical positive change agent within your community.”
― R. David Lankes
* attributed to Jo Godwin