Why libraries and librarians are so important
The library means many things to different people—it can serve as a home away from home, literary oasis, hands-on design lab, and so much more. Whether students are building robots, diving into a good book, or learning to code, one thing is for sure: librarians and libraries play a vital role in today’s schools and communities (if you don’t believe us, check out research from the 2016 edition of School Libraries Work!).
This week, Outside the Lines is celebrating the creativity and innovation happening in libraries across the country and around the world with a #getOTL social media campaign encouraging people to share their “library stories.” To join in this important celebration, a few bloggers from our OOM team shared their favorite memories and explained what the library means to them. Check it out below!
As a child my mother would take my brother and I to the library over summer vacation so we could check-out the books on our assigned summer reading list. However, what made it special was that my mom would also let my brother and I check-out a movie (if available) about/or/based-on a book we had already read. It was our little treat after completing a book.
I don’t remember how old I was, but I the first time I visited the library was also one of the first times I ever used a computer. I remember the librarian showing me how to look up titles to locate them on the library floor. I must have looked up ever book I could think of, just to spend more time on the computer. However, the big success was of course finding the title on the shelf—what a sense of accomplishment!
It was around third grade when I started getting into reading, and once I was in middle school it escalated to the point where I would spend my breaks in the library reading any book that seemed even vaguely interesting to me. The school library was stocked with all kinds of books (funnily, mostly Scholastic books, now that I think about it) which included some random books that I still think about today even though I have never seen them anywhere else since. I remember the librarian once asking me to help with checking out books or something, but once she saw how into my book I was, asked another girl to help her instead. I also used to frequently borrow piles of books from what I believe was one of the only functioning libraries in Bombay. Ever since then, libraries have always been a sanctuary of sorts for me. The library in my boarding school was my favorite place on campus, and the same can be said for the libraries in both my colleges. Even now, I sometimes visit the New York Public Library whenever I’m in dire need of a calming experience.
I grew up in Washington, D.C., and spent a lot of time at the public library. My branch was called the Northeast Library, and was run by a wonderful man named Mr. Maury, who was known to every kid in the neighborhood!
I am not sure if I was the only one like this, but I had a sense of territorial, loyal pride over being part of the NE Library community—other kids I knew went to the Southeast library. I was always quite certain that the SE library was very different and likely inferior to mine (I’m quite sure now that the SE Library is perfectly fine!).
My library had great children’s programming—the children’s read-aloud hour was established in the 1940s! When I was little, my parents took me at 7:00 p.m. to the pajamas storybook hour. I remember learning to sing “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” there, and entered the contest to name the NE Library pet bunny (winning name: Hopalong Joe.)
When I was older, I researched school reports there (still with Mr. Maury’s help, and using old-fashioned card catalogs), and happily discovered the YA thriller section, which was a wire rack filled with Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike books.
I also remember the moment when my blue “children’s” library card was upgraded to the red “adult” card. A real turning point!
The library in my town had a special children’s room that, in my memory, is magical: plenty of child-sized tables and chairs for reading and lounging, racks and racks of books I couldn’t wait to read, and a librarian who was always happy to answer our questions or recommend new books. But I think my favorite library moment is when I “graduated” out of the children’s room and into the teen section. It was much smaller, and it wasn’t its own room, but choosing books from there made me feel so grown up.
I remember spending hours browsing the local library with my mom when I was in elementary school, always looking for the most interesting book covers (yes, I judged the books by their covers). Years later when I was in college and staying at home for the summer, I interned at the local art gallery. The small library I had known and loved as a kid was being renovated and one of my big undertakings as an intern was helping with the installation of artwork in the new, modern space. Our biggest installation was Christian Moeller’s piece titled “Portrait in 12 Volumes of Grey,” which featured 4,000 blank books in different shades of the color grey on a massive steel bookshelf. When you step away and look at the bookshelf from afar, it created a pixilated image of a librarian saying “Shhhhhhh.” It was incredible to be a part of my hometown library’s renovation and I still have one of the extra blank books at home with a person note inside from the artist. “Never stop exploring,” he wrote.
Don’t forget to share your library story on social media using #getOTL!