Posts tagged " library "

A Little Less Library

August 31st, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

Sandy is a generous tipper. After a restaurant meal, you can count on her to leave not only money for the waiter but also a smile and a word of appreciation. Her sensitivity was developed the summer that she waited tables earning money for college.

When my own children attend a lecture or class at their synagogue they usually make a point of thanking the speaker. Their awareness was honed through years of watching their father prepare his Torah classes and realizing the amount of work that goes into a well delivered presentation.

There is nothing like first-hand experience to make one aware of the considerable work that leads to a successful activity. Even a smoothly moving line in a supermarket expresses thought and planning, but it takes shopping in a badly run store to recognize that fact.

In my case, first-hand experience led to a personal culture clash.  By nature and upbringing I am a library and used book aficionado. While there is a certain thrill in opening crisp pages, I rarely am willing to pay the premium price rather than wait until a book is more readily available. However, since my husband started writing books and especially since working with him has become my full time job, I am acutely sensitive to the difference when someone mentions to an author that he got his book from the library versus having bought it directly. It is not only the author’s livelihood which is impacted, though it certainly is.  More so, spending money on an item which has consumed hours of labor and sweat validates that effort.

So, despite the fact that both my purse and bookshelves audibly groan on a regular basis, in the last few years, when a book impacts my life, I find myself more willing to purchase it, even if as a gift for someone else. Like Sandy’s gesture to the waiter, it’s my way of acknowledging how much I benefitted from someone’s willingness to work.

(If you would like to find out more about my husband’s books and our audio CD programs, you can find them here.

Frigates, Coursers and Librarians

May 17th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 6 comments

 

I didn’t recognize any of the people working at my community’s library today. I still get surprised when that happens. Despite being aware of the policy changes that were instituted a while back, I just cannot get accustomed to not knowing the staff.

 

Over the years, our library system has announced a number of “new and improved” policies. Sometimes, the change is a good one, as when card catalogues became computerized. Other times, I have to wonder why anyone wanted to tinker with a successfully functioning system.

 

When our county declared that librarians were going to rotate through the branches, rather than be assigned permanent positions, there was an attempt to explain how beneficial this would be. Both librarians and patrons would be better served. I didn’t get it.

 

To my shame and regret, I didn’t plan a protest rally. I didn’t even express my dismay to the local newspaper’s editor or to the “Friends of the Library” fundraising group. That reflected a busy life, not a lack of concern.

 

For years, my children and I spent hours each week at the library. We attended programs and special classes, but most of all we roamed the shelves and checked out books. Over time, the librarians learned of each of my children’s unique interests and abilities. Frequently, they recommended books, assisted them in research projects and in general, became part of their educational support network. The library was our greatest resource for homeschooling material and it was also friendly to our budget.

 

Had there been no easy access to a library my children would have still been surrounded by books. They would have still had adults in their lives encouraging them to read and pointing them in the direction of worthwhile material. Not all children are so fortunate.

 

The public library system offers the gift of books to all. Through the generations librarians have been the interface to those books for scores of immigrants or neglected children.

 

Today, I can reserve books online, check myself out using a computer, and never interact with a human being. If I do have a question, anyone working behind the desk can answer it. I can even type it in my computer and never exchange a word with a person. That’s fine for me, though I certainly prefer to see familiar faces and share greetings. But for a child for whom the library serves as a haven and a doorway into a better future, the computer cannot replace a living person expressing interest in his life. A strange face each time she visits means there is no one to notice that she has read a particularly challenging book or prefers non-fiction to fiction. Libraries should exude welcome and comfort, not impersonal bureaucracy.

 

As Emily Dickinson said:

 

There is no frigate like a book

To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

 

Not only books, but librarians as well, are capable of being chariots. I have no idea what the government officials who instituted the rotating librarian policy were thinking. It would be lovely if they would think again.

Not the Charlotte’s Web I Recall

January 23rd, 2007 Posted by Susan's Musings 2 comments

What do you think of when you remember Charlotte’s Web? Maybe pigs and spiders, or perhaps you are surrounded by memories of cuddling under a blanket and reading, possibly the first stirrings of recognition that there was a relationship between the food on your plate and animals. (As a Jew who kept kosher, the book might have been an easier read for me) Whatever your memories are, they probably didn’t include high school students having affairs with their teachers or participating in a host of other immoral and un-childlike behaviors.

Which is why it was incredibly disturbing to me when I approached a copy of Charlotte’s Web prominently displayed in a bookstore on a shelf advertising “Recommended Reading for Children”, and found that the book featured next to it included the above depravities.

What is the manager of that bookstore thinking? And how sad is it that parents can’t allow their children the liberating pleasure of freely browsing through the children’s section of a bookstore or the library without having to worry about what they will find. With all the (necessary) warnings about children being accidentally exposed to pornography and other evils on the web, how about a little concern for what they will find in what we think of as safe locations?

Using judgment and taking the responsibility for what children see should be an obligation every children’s librarian and bookstore owner accepts. The fact that the government shouldn’t censor reading material is unrelated to whether adults in positions of trust should. In the years that passed between when my eldest and youngest daughters each became voracious readers and devoted bookshelf browsers I saw a scary change in the offerings on those shelves. I’m not talking age appropriate realism – I’m talking age inappropriate depictions and the presentation of deviation as the norm. What a sad reality it is when any caring parent today has to know that the sheltered harbors of their childhood, the libraries and bookstores, are no longer protected environments