Showing posts with label librarians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label librarians. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Daughter: A Mother Celebrates Her Daughter's Birthday

Today is my daughter's birthday.  She is 35 years old.

As I said when I wrote about my son on his birthday, "I look at birthdays as a good time for memories, because when your children are adults and they live far away, your memories are mostly what you have."

"These are mine."

When our daughter entered the family, Hubby and I were newly married (nine months exactly), and I already had a son from a previous marriage. 
(If you want to get caught up, see my blog post "My Son)."

Unlike my son who arrived right on time (I worked the day he was born), my daughter was two weeks late, so I was able to take some time off before she was born. When the time finally came, once again it was a long labor. I decided then and there, I wasn't very good at this giving birth thing and I wasn't going to do it anymore.

When she was born, she settled nicely into the family. 

As with my son, I was able to spend two months with her before having to head back to work as a librarian. Two whole months!  Geez.  Barely figured out how to breast feed by then. In those days, not many allowances were made for women who chose to have children.  I liked my career, but because of money issues it never really occurred to me that I could stay home. 

As she began to talk, one of our favorite, though embarrassing memories was her inability to articulate hard consonants.  T's would sound like "F's."  She would see a truck and yell "F--," well, you get it.

Where our son was a more quiet, introspective child, our daughter was already gregarious and funny.  Our son would go to the park and hang back from groups of kids until he had figured out the best way to interact.  But our daughter would not only barge in head first, but would soon be calling the shots.  "I'll be the engineer of this train, you can be the conductor.  And do you want to be my best friend?"

She also always had a mind of her own.  When I took her to get her picture taken, she wanted to wear a little plastic bracelet someone had given her.  I said no and off we went to the photo studio. 

Look at her wrist in this picture!

I loved my son dearly, but he was all boy in his interests - sports, sports and more sports.  I was happy to have a little girl to spoil and dress and shop and watch musical comedies with.  She also could sing and developed an interest in acting, something I had enjoyed.  At the age of seven, she played Molly, the littlest orphan, in a professional production of "Annie" and went on to star in all of the school musicals, many local professional productions and college plays ("West Side Story," "Little Shop of Horrors," "Sound of Music," Into the Woods").

She was funny, original and unselfconscious. 

She was smart and did well in school.  She was a kind girl who enjoyed her family.  We played games on Family Night, enjoyed fine dining, shopped and traveled.  There were no drugs or alcohol incidents.  She got involved with a boy too early for our liking and suffered from body image issues as many teenage girls do, but all in all, she was happy, successful and made us proud.

One summer during middle school she cried to me that she thought she didn't like how she looked and felt terrible that she had braces and wore glasses.  I tried to tell her she was beautiful and one day the braces and glasses would be gone and she would look like this one day.

And then it just went so fast from there.

After middle school, where she graduated with honors, she graduated from high school with honors and went on to Stanford University.

After college, she worked in publishing in San Francisco before meeting her husband to be. They were married in our garden before she was whisked off to the East Coast where her husband was completing his Ph.d.

She is a singer/songwriter and sang with her Dad in his bands over the years.

And like her Mom, she's a librarian! 

She graduated with a Master's Degree in Library Science from the University of Washington and is now a Web Systems Librarian at a university on the East Coast (she is smarter than her mother - I felt happy when I learned to cut and paste on the computer)!

Two generations of librarians. 

Mother and daughter.

Old generation librarian. 

New generation librarian.
(I wrote about this "passing of the baton" on a blog post).

Someone said the mother daughter relationship is the most complex of relationships.  No one is willing to own up to saying that, because it's credited to "Anonymous." That could be a true statement, but no mother is thinking that the day her little baby girl is born. And no mother is thinking about the baggage she herself brings to the show. All you are thinking about is how you can't wait to share with her everything you have learned. 

As a mother, you want to see your daughter go off in life and succeed and be her own woman.  But you also wish she would take with her some of what you shared with her, such as what you value, a love of movie musicals, how to dry wine glasses or whatever it may be. You wish she would call every day and ask your advice.  And if she doesn't do that, you wonder what happened.  Could it possibly be that she doesn't want to be you, her mother?

Yes, she wants to be herself.  And when she finds who that is, she will find you again one day.

But as her mother, whether she likes it or not, she will always be your baby girl.

Happy Birthday, my baby girl!

A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.
Dorothy C. Fisher, quoted in O Magazine, May 2003
Probably there is nothing in human nature more resonant with charges than the flow of energy between two biologically alike bodies, one of which has lain in amniotic bliss inside the other, one of which has labored to give birth to the other. The materials are here for the deepest mutuality and the most painful estrangement.”
Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Librarian Fashion

The title of this blog post may seem like an oxymoron because the librarian stereotype seems to belie what we think of when we think of fashion.  The stereotype is a woman, hair in a bun with a pencil in it, glasses on her face or dangling from a chain around her neck and double tread floor gripper shoes. High fashion and librarians don't seem to mix.

But then I saw this piece in Elle Magazine.

I kept it in my office as a reminder that no matter how times have changed, no matter how eclectic librarians really are as they toil in libraries, librarians do have a perceived stereotype, even when perceived from the echelons of high fashion in a seemingly flattering light.

Yes, the above "seems" flattering, but at second glance...

The Stereotype:

"Bookish accessories"...check

"Proper polka dots"...check

"Smart cover-ups"...check



Flat, sensible shoes...check.

Name tag that says "Librarian."  Maybe, check.

Yep, it's all there...and then...

Dress with thigh high slit?...Yikes! 

Despite that one little thing, which I will get to in a minute, even now, even when the article is actually trying to be flattering, this stereotype surrounds librarians.

When I started out in the profession, I can't tell you how many times someone would say, "But you don't look like a librarian."  And that's because I was young, I dressed in the current styles and was outgoing, something that belies that old librarian stereotype.

That really bothered me.  Why?

Because a stereotype, even when it involves fashion, somehow belittles and diminishes.  It detracts from the important work that librarians do. 

I wanted to look like a librarian because I WAS a librarian.  But I didn't want to perpetuate that stereotype of the homely, anti-social librarian, so I worked to change that stereotype through how I looked and how I performed my job.

People who become librarians are as diverse as any other profession.  The stereotype of the quiet, bookish woman librarian persists mostly from people who haven't set foot in a library in years. Because if they had, they would know that libraries are so much more than books, and librarians don't have time to be "bookish," because they are too busy dealing with the issues that come up in any public place and putting out the fires that are part of a busy job.

Proper?  Not sure what that means.  I know male librarians who wear kilts and play in rock bands and women librarians who are tattooed from head to toe and dance in strip clubs at night.  Well, not really, the strip club thing, but they could.

Smart.  Well, yeah.  I will go along with that one.

Glasses.  I haven't worn glasses in public for over 40 years.  Most of us have heard of contacts, OK?  We are smart people.  But what if we WANT to wear glasses, huh?  What do you think about that?  What if we think really cool glasses are fashion statements?  What about that?  Huh?

Cardigan?  Ok, but with a classy belt.

Flat, sensible shoes?  I was never good about the sensible part.

Name tag...OK, I'll give you that one.

Dress with thigh high slit?  Well, no.  But I don't think you could get away with that in a law office or bank either. Though I like the idea of Elle Magazine adding that little twist and some sex appeal to librarians, I have a feeling it's harking back to that other librarian stereotype...the pent-up sexually frustrated librarian-type who keeps all of the dirty books behind the desk and who is just waiting for a hunky guy to come along so she can doff the glasses, pull her hair out of the bun and let him ravage her on the desk.  It's a guy thing.

I don't like that stereotype either.

The truth is, libraries are dynamic places that are helping people find jobs, helping children prepare for school, helping students with their homework, providing tax assistance and English as Second Language programs...I could go on and on.

And the library staff providing those services are dynamic people who may or may not be fashionistas, but that bun-wearing old lady shushing everyone who dares breathe too heavily are few and far between.

But despite that, the stereotype persists, so I have some advice for librarians who want to smash that stereotype while maintaining a professional attitude.

If you want to be taken seriously, dress seriously.
People go to librarians for assistance and they want to know that the people who are helping them know what they are doing.  So it's probably not a good idea to wear a T-Shirt that says something like "Librarian by day, Zombie Slayer by night" or "I like BIG BOOKS and I cannot lie."  Likewise, political statements or rude sayings, such as "I'd tell you to go to hell but I work there and then I would have to see you every day" probably won't inspire confidence.  That also might get you fired.

If you want to be treated like the professional person you are, dress like a professional person.
You don't need to "Dress for Success," like we did in the 70's, but jeans, a t-shirt and sandals are too casual if you want to be treated like a professional person, especially if you are a library manager.

Keep up with trends.
If you dress with some indication you know what's in fashion, it will also indicate you are aware of what's going on in the world.  Even women of a certain age can wear a trend of some kind.  I think it's a psychological thing.  People associate looking current with being current, that you know what's going on.  And looking like you know what's going on is a must for a librarian.

As for "Looking like a librarian?"

Here's what a librarian looks like.


 (what can I say?  It was the 80's)




I am now retired after 40 years as a librarian.  I have weathered (and tried) every fashion trend.  Even in retirement, I still try to stay current with and write about fashion, (here's my post about "Retirement Chic,"), though more and more I seem to wear my jammies until late in the day if I don't have to go out.  But that's one of the perks of retirement.

I still keep that Elle Magazine article in my office to remind myself that even in retirement, I look like a librarian.


Because I AM a librarian and this is what she looks like!

Thanks for Reading!

See you Friday 
for my review of the new movie

"Big Eyes,"

The Week in Reviews,
as well as my progress on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project."

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Holiday Carol, An Update (With Apologies to Charles Dickens)

I like to update and repost this every holiday season because it wishes you a Happy Holiday while also promoting some of my great loves - dogs in costumes, libraries and goodwill to all.

I hope you enjoy it.

(If you remember this post, I hope you will enjoy it again in its updated version).

Ebenezer Scrooge was in a bad mood as he headed to his office. He was always in a bad mood.

He encountered his nephew Fred.

Fred: Happy Holidays, Uncle! I’m off to the library!

Scrooge: Bah, Humbug! What right do you have to be happy? You’re poor enough. And what do you want with the library? What good is it to you?

Fred (laughing): And what right have you to be dismal, Uncle? You’re rich enough.

Scrooge: (grumbling) What else can I be, when I live in such a world of fools as this? Happy Holidays. What are the holidays but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer?

Fred: All the more reason to go to the library, Uncle. When times are hard, the library is a good place to go. I am getting some DVDs, which I can borrow for not a pence and I can use their computers to print out my holiday greetings. I am going out of town, so I am also going to check out some audio books to listen to on the plane. But join us for our holiday dinner. We are going to watch the 
Dr. Who Christmas Special on television. Good day, Uncle!

As Scrooge enters his business premises, two other people follow him in. They are portly gentlemen and stand with their hats off in Scrooge’s office.

Gentleman #1: Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe. Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge or Mr. Marley?

Scrooge: Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years. He died seven years ago this very night.

Gentleman #2: We are from the Friends of the Library and are asking for donations to fund our classes and programs. At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should have events and activities to benefit those in our community who are finding these economic times difficult and, who suffer greatly at the present time due to the bad economy. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries, hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts. Coming to the library is of great comfort to many.

Scrooge: Are there no prisons? And the workhouses? Are they still in operation?

Gentleman #1: (cautiously) Both very busy, sir.

Scrooge: Good. I was afraid from what you said that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.

Gentleman #2. But people would rather die than go there.

Scrooge: Then they should do it and decrease the surplus population.

Gentleman #1: (thinking Scrooge is joking): We choose this time of year because it is a time when Want is keenly felt. What shall we put you down for?”

Scrooge: Nothing.

Gentleman #2: (hopefully) You wish to remain anonymous?

Scrooge: I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry during the holidays and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned – they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there. Who cares about libraries? Now leave my premises.

That evening, Scrooge takes his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern and reads all the newspapers, and beguiles the rest of the evening with his banker’s book and then goes home to bed. He lives in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner, Jacob Marley. They are a gloomy suite of rooms that suit Scrooge’s personality.
As the candles flicker, Scrooge nods off to sleep --- only to be awakened by a clanking noise, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain. The door flies open and he beholds an apparition.

Scrooge: Who are you? What do you want with me?

Ghost: I am Marley’s ghost.

Scrooge: What? You’re not Jacob Marley.

Ghost: Jacob Marley? I thought they said Bob Marley.

Scrooge: Well my partner’s name was Jacob Marley.

Ghost: Whatever, mon. The message will be the same and here it is.

(reciting) It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen and travel far and wide and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. I wear the chain I forged in life. I never walked beyond our counting-house in life and never believed in the power of libraries. Seven years dead and travelling all the time. The whole time. No rest, no peace, incessant torture of remorse, because I spent all of that money on Netflix when I could have had DVDs for free or that I never learned how to use a computer because I didn’t know the library had free classes.

Scrooge: Huh?

Ghost: (shaking his head) Basically, mon, Marley didn’t live a very nice life, never helped anyone, lived only for himself and didn’t get it that libraries are life-changers and would have saved him all of that precious money he cared so much about. But you have a chance to change that. 

(getting back into character)

Scrooge, you will be haunted by Three Spirits. Without their visits you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One.

And the spirit disappears. Scrooge feels a draft, shivers and closes the window. He examines the door by which the ghost had entered. It is double-locked and the bolts undisturbed.

Scrooge: Hum…

He stops after the first syllable, goes straight to bed and falls asleep upon the instant.
Suddenly, the curtains of his bed are drawn aside and Scrooge finds himself face to face with another ghost.

Scrooge: Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?

I am.

Scrooge: What and who are you?

Ghost: I am the Ghost of Years Past.

Scrooge: Long Past?

Ghost: Your past. Rise and walk with me.

All of a sudden in the blink of an eye, Scrooge and the spirit are standing outside looking up at a large brick building.

Scrooge: This was my boyhood library!

Ghost: You recollect the way?

Scrooge: Remember it, I could walk it blindfold.

They walk around the library, Scrooge recognizing his favorite childhood books.

Scrooge: The library is deserted.

Ghost: The library is not quite deserted. A solitary child, neglected by his family, is left there still.

(The Spirit touches Scrooge on the arm and points to his younger self intent upon his reading.)

Suddenly they are surrounded by storybook characters: Curious George and The Wild Things from “Where the Wild Things Are."

Scrooge: I had forgotten what a lonely boy I was and how the library was a place I went to escape that loneliness and the misery of my family. All of those lovely books. Without the library, I would have been miserable indeed. The library saved me.

A beautiful and glamorous librarian appears.

Librarian: Happy Holidays, Young Scrooge. Here is the latest book in the Divergent series. I saved it for you.

Scrooge: (his face lighting up) She was always so welcoming and wonderful to me. She smashed the librarian stereotype. She never wore a bun or practical shoes and never shushed me. And she had tattoos! All of the library staff were welcoming and friendly people. And the place was so alive, full of people using the computers, attending the classes and events, gathering with their neighbors…

Ghost: A small matter, to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.

Scrooge: Small?

Ghost: (Looking at Scrooge sincerely) People spend but a few pounds of mortal money for library service. Is that so much that they deserve this praise?

Scrooge: It isn’t that…The happiness and help they give is quite as great as if it cost a fortune. Books and the teen programs at the library helped me through some sad and lonely times. And where else can you go to find information on all sides of a subject and not be judged? The library protects our rights to information and is the backbone of what makes this country great.
But somehow I lost my way.
Spirit…show me no more. Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?
The spirit disappears under the door in a burst of light. Scrooge is overcome by drowsiness and barely has time to reel to bed before he sinks into a heavy sleep. Scrooge jolts awake from a prodigious snore. A strange voice calls him by name. A light shines from an adjoining room. A woman who bids him enter. 


I am the Ghost of the Present.

She is clothed in a green robe and jewels, but her nametag clearly indicates she is a librarian.

Ghost: You have never seen the like of me before.

Scrooge: No, actually I recognized you as a librarian right away. I am used to glamorous librarians.

Ghost: Touch my robe.

As Scrooge does so the room disappears and they stand in the threshold of Bob Cratchit’s dwelling. Bob Cratchit is Scrooge’s employee. Mrs. Cratchit is there dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gown but brave in ribbons

She is laying the table with her daughter and two smaller Cratchits are also there. Bob Cratchit appears with Little Tiny Tarquin on his shoulder. Bob is sad and Little Tiny Tarquin is crying.

Scrooge: Spirit, tell me what is wrong with Little Tiny Tarquin?

Ghost: You cut Bob Crachit’s hours and he was no longer able to keep up his car payments. They no longer have a car to get to the library and they can’t afford bus fare either because of the meager wages Bob receives. Little Tiny Tarquin worries that he will not do well in school if he doesn’t get to attend the Ready Reader story times at the library. He doesn’t want to start kindergarten without the same skills that other children will have. I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will not succeed in kindergarten or in life.

Scrooge: No, no. Oh, no, Spirit, say he will be spared.

Ghost: Let him go to the prisons and the workhouses and decrease the surplus population.

Scrooge hangs his head when hearing his own words quoted by the Spirit.
Suddenly the bells toll and as the last stroke ceases to vibrate, Scrooge remembers the prediction of Bob Marley and lifting up his eyes, beholds a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him. It is shrouded in a dark garment, which conceals its head, its form and leaves nothing of it visible save its nose and one outstretched paw…er, hand.

Scrooge: Am I in the presence of the Ghost of What is Yet To Come? You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us. Is that so, Spirit? Ghost of the Future, I fear you more than any specter I have seen. Will you not speak to me?

The Ghost remains silent and leads Scrooge through the darkened town. The Spirit stops beside one little knot of business men.

Man: No, I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know all of the libraries have been closed.

Man 2: When did they close? What happened? I thought they would be there forever.

Man: So did I. But no one supported them and they disappeared.

The spirit leads Scrooge to a dark building. The Phantom’s claw points to a sign.

Scrooge: Before I draw nearer to that sign to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that WILL be or are they shadows of things that MAY be?

Scrooge creeps towards the sign, trembling as he goes; and following the pointing claw reads upon the sign


Scrooge: Oh, no, Spirit, no. Spirit, hear me. I am not the man I was. Why show me this, if I am past all hope? I will honor libraries in my heart and support them all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on that sign.

Holding up his hands, Scrooge sees an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrinks, collapses and dwindles down into his bedpost.

Scrooge: They are not closed. They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been may be dispelled. They will be, I know they will.

Scrooge dresses and sets out to town. He has not gone far when coming on towards him he beholds the portly gentlemen from the Friends of the Library who had walked into his counting house the day before.

Scrooge: My dear sirs. How do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. If you please, accept this donation to the Friends of the Library. And I would love to support my library in any way possible.

Gentleman: I don’t know what to say about such munificence.

Scrooge: Don’t say anything please. Come and see me. I would like to be active in your group.

Scrooge then heads to his nephew, Fred's, home.

Scrooge: (knocking on Fred's door) Fred, Fred, let me in. I've come to watch the Dr. Who Holiday Special with you!

The next day, Scrooge is early to his office. If he could only be here first and catch Bob Cratchit coming late. That was the thing he had set his heart upon. And Bob was late.

Scrooge: (growling but hiding a grin) What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?

Bob: I am very sorry, sir. I am behind my time. It’s only once a year, sir. It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.

Scrooge: Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend. I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer…and therefore I am about to raise your salary! I will raise your salary and endeavor to assist your struggling family. I want to take Little Tiny Tarquin to the library. They have family story times that would be fun for all of us to go to. And we can take him to the Ready Reader story times so he can get ready for kindergarten. We want him to succeed, don’t we, Bob. And I want you to improve your computer skills. They have free classes.

Scrooge couldn’t stop talking about the library and he was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.

He became a library champion!

He shared his enthusiasm with everyone he encountered. And he became a donor to the Library Foundation which supports library programs and services. 

And to Little Tiny Tarquin he was a second father. He enjoyed attending the Ready Reader story times with him. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh and little heeded them: for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset. His own heart laughed; and that was quite enough for him.

Scrooge had no further visits from Spirits but lived upon the principle that libraries mattered ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep the holidays well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. 

And so, as Little Tiny Tarquin observed,

Arf, Arf, Arf, Arf, Arf Arf!”

Happy Holidays Everyone!

(I wrote this blog for Sno-Isle Libraries in 2011 and like to update it and share it every year to remind us all how important libraries are to our quality of life...not to mention dogs in costumes)!

Why not make a New Year's Resolution to support your local libraries?

Thanks for  reading!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why I Love My Library: The ME Factor

You knew I couldn't go too long without talking about libraries. 

I can't help it. As you all know, I spent 40 years of my life as a librarian, over 30 of those years in California, so it's practically in my blood at this point.

So that said, I am continually struck by the fact that not everyone knows what a great job public libraries are doing and all of the great FREE services and programs they provide.

And it is important to me that people know what they are missing by not taking advantage of what public libraries have to offer. 

But let me digress a bit.

My first library job was in a small Carnegie Library in a very rural area of Northern California.  How rural was it?  It was so rural it didn't even have a McDonald's!


Things were looking up with my career until 1978, when the Jarvis-Gann tax initiative (also known as Proposition 13) took hold of California and things were never the same again.  Property taxes were rolled back to their 1975 values and annual increases were restricted to less than 2%.  And a 2/3 vote was required for any tax increases, making it extremely difficult for public entities to raise taxes.

This was good news for property owners, especially older ones who were increasingly being taxed out of their homes (one of the major reasons this "tax revolt" occurred), but it was the death knell for County and City services, especially libraries, that relied on property tax revenue to operate.

I had not been a librarian long enough to become entrenched in big budgets, but every year I saw more and more cuts to the library budgets, fewer books, fewer services, fewer programs.

But despite a lack of money, we librarians did what we always did: provided the information and service people needed to help them make sense of their world.  So all hail to my ex-colleagues at the Monterey County Free Libraries and to all library staff who strive to provide excellent customer service despite setbacks.

Fast forward to when I moved to the Seattle area.

It was a revelation and a delight to continue my career in Washington, a state that is not only known for it's coffee drinkers, but for being one of the most literate states in the country and its residents huge library supporters. 


I was able to spend the last ten years of my library career working in a library with enough money to provide the services its communities needed and wanted.

But even in an area where the residents support library services, I was continually running into a number of people who were not aware of the programs and services that are available for free from their local public library, despite libraries working very hard to advertise and market these programs and services.  And this has been something that has not changed much over the last 40 years. 

People like the idea of having a public library.  It's a part of the fabric of the community.  They know it's something good to have and they want to have it.  But ask the regular person on the street or in a bar or at a party if he or she goes to the library and you will inevitably hear, "I haven't been in a library since I was a little kid," or "I buy my books" or worse yet, "I haven't read a book in years." 

This is all assuming, of course, that libraries are only about books, which these days is certainly not the case.

Why, despite pointed efforts to promote library services, do so many people carry misconceptions about libraries and are not aware of the plethora of programs and services available?

I have come to the following conclusion:

People are not interested in GOOD NEWS.

We were talking about this issue when I was in library school 40 years ago.  How do we get people to think of the library when they need information, to continue their education or to gather with other community members? 

And 40 years later, we are still asking the same question.  And with information so readily available on the Internet, it is an even bigger question.

One of my professors in library school said the best thing that could happen to libraries would be for a librarian to be splashed across headlines in the tabloids as part of a scandalous love nest or (this was the Watergate years) to be found to be a Watergate conspirator.

The point being, bad news sells and gets the word out. 

Good news doesn't.

I always felt that if people knew about all of the programs and services offered by their local library FOR FREE they would be beating down the doors.

As I said, most people would say that libraries are good and a community should have a library.  It's part of the quality of life for a community and is part of the "greater good." But that doesn't mean they use the library.  And that doesn't mean that when it comes time to raise taxes to support libraries, that people will support "the greater good."

That leads me to conclusion number two: 

To have their value appreciated, libraries need to connect directly one on one with someone's specific need.  Then the light bulb goes off, or as Oprah would say, that "A-Ha Moment" happens.

Because, in the end, it's all about ME.

Here is an example:  I meet someone at a party.  He is telling me about how he enjoys listening to talking books in his car on the way to work.  I ask him if he knew he could download talking books for free from the library's website?  Light bulb goes off.  "I did not know that," he says.  "I am going to check that out."  

"The Me Factor?"  I like talking books and I like to save money.

Or the person who comes to the library as a last resort because a friend had heard the library had free computer classes.  She is looking for a job, needs to fill out an online application and knows nothing about computers.  The librarian helps her on the spot.  Light bulb goes off. 

"The Me Factor?  I need a job and I need help filling out an online application.

Or when people find out they can check out 10 current DVDS for free...another light bulb.

"The Me Factor?" I like to watch DVDs but I don't like paying Netflix $25.00 per month.

So it seems that when someone has a need and the library can go beyond that person's expectation to fulfill that need, their own PERSONAL NEED, that's when the realization hits: 

The library has what I need.  The library can answer MY question.  The library can fulfill MY needs.  I need the library.  I will be back.

Personally, in the last week alone, here is how my local library helped ME:

1.  I used to get some information for my blog post about my Swedish heritage, which you can read here, if you are so inclined. is a genealogy database that costs a fortune to use if you subscribe on your own, but it's free at the library.  I type in the name of my ancestor and voila!  Census records, immigration lists, etc.  If you have watched the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" or "Finding Our Roots (PBS)," they use Ancestry all of the time.

2.  If you have been reading my Friday blog posts, you know I am embroiled in a project to see all 1001 movies listed in the book "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," (and you can keep up with my progress every Friday), a book I heard about and found at my local library and which has given me a project that will keep me busy until...well, until I die.

I painstakingly went through and marked the ones I had seen and made a list of those I had not seen - 312.  Then I checked Netflix and Amazon and my library's catalog, and though the library did not have all 312, the library had many of them AND some that neither Netflix nor Amazon had.  One movie alone would have cost me $150 to buy through Amazon, but at the library, it was free.

3.  I am getting ready to visit my grandchildren in California.  Whenever I fly, I want to have content on my IPad so I load it up with the magazines from Zinio, another service that is quite expensive if you were to subscribe to an online magazine on your own.  This service is available free on my library's website, and it includes a wealth of full-text magazines for free in all of their full color glossiness.  Why spend $10 loading up on the gossip mags at the airport (and you know you do!) when you already have them for free on your device?  And nobody can judge you for your choice of reading material!

(I have to confess I read them at home via Zinio too, along with the Food Network Magazine and other cooking magazines, Oprah's "O Magazine," and tons of fashion magazines.  Why pay for magazine subscriptions when you don't have to? And there is something for everyone - from "The Advocate"  to "Golf Tips" to "National Geographic Traveler").

So that is how my library has helped ME, in just the last week.

  • But if I still had toddlers at home, I would take them to the free story times that would help them get ready to go to school.

  • If I needed help with my English, I would attend the free ESL classes.

  • If I wanted to become a U.S citizen, I would attend the free classes that would help me pass the test.

  • If I needed to repair my car, I would use the free car repair databases.

  • If I wanted to learn a new language, I would use the free Mango service on the website.

  • If I had school children, I would set them up with the free homework help available online.

I could go on and on. 

It just depends on what your specific need is right now - your "Me Factor." 

So whatever it is, next time you have a question, a need, check out the library first.  Your specific need might just be filled right there for free.

And, on the library side, I don't think marketing the library by directing the librarians to get involved in a scandal so as to make the news is a good option.  However, working on marketing the "Me Factor" might work.

The American Library Association has long had a motto:  "The right book for the right person at the right time."

In this day and age, it should be "The specific need fulfilled for the specific person (ME) at the specific (and perfect) time."

Because in the end, it's all about ME.

Oh, and my local library that has given me so much? 


But I think if you check out YOUR local library's website or better yet, pay the library a visit, you will find many of the same great services.

Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
where I will judge the new movie
"The Judge" 
along with my other reviews.

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