elnnj (elnnj) wrote,

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Response to Radio Host Judy Franco at 101.5

According to an email I received yesterday forwarded by Connie Paul from New Jersey State Librarian, Norma Blake, "You may have heard the radio broadcast yesterday on station 101.5, the “Dennis and Judi Show” about libraries. Host Judi Franco led a discussion about why libraries are useless and stated that it made much more sense to just go to a bookstore and buy what you need, rather than go to a library.  It was gratifying to hear many library users call in to champion their local library.  Pat Tumulty, NJLA Executive Director, also called the station and did a masterful job defending libraries and librarians. It is gratifying for all of us to know that since 1989, yearly library visits have increased from 15 million to 41 million."

Connie, who is the Executive Director of the Central Jersey Regional Library Cooperative (CJRLC), asked "How valuable are libraries?  I would like to ask you to have your customers e-mail Judi Franco at dj@nj1015.com and let her know how important libraries are to them." 

I responded to Judy and forwarded the request for a response to folks involved in my former library. Here is my response:

I opened a library in a town where many people couldn't afford to buy books for themselves; where people sometimes had to wait for their disability checks to arrive before they could pay their library fines; where having a car was a luxury many couldn't afford and the nearest Barnes and Noble was at an incredibly busy highway intersection that many couldn't or wouldn't walk to. Even if my former library customers could have afforded to buy a book, they might have been overwhelmed by the number of choices at a big book store and they came to trust my opinion as their librarian as to what book they might enjoy reading next. I didn't dictate what they should read but I helped them by selecting books specifically to suit the reading tastes of customers. I also took time to understand what their needs for information were by listening to and remembering their questions. That helped me select non-fiction that would enable my customers to deal with issues in their own lives, such as landlord disputes, custody rights of grandparents, health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Being aware of what they felt they needed to know helped me be able to point
my customers toward databases supplied free by consortia or government so that they could get accurate, factual information instead of opinions or paid ads found by using online search engines. The library hosted programs
to encourage children to read out loud to canine companions. The library hosted adult literacy tutors and made customers aware of the variety of formats in which resources were available to assist them with their language
skills. The library allowed people of the community to contribute as volunteers toward enhancing the lives of their community members. This opportunity seemed to reward both the volunteers and those who benefitted
from their efforts in ways that no one could have anticipated. Community building as a result of the interaction of folks who might not otherwise have met seemed to be taking place. As a librarian, I made a difference. The library made a difference. Together, the library and the librarian provided just-in-time, accurate information, custom-tailored reading experiences, and opportunities for different segments of a community to come together and interact that touched many more lives than just those of the immediate participants. In the end, I think that's why libraries are important - they
act as catalysts for change that ripple through a community in new and important ways. "

I might have added that I saw teenagers being respected for the first time in their lives by people who didn't live in their town. I saw pre-teens get valuable experience volunteering in the library and slightly younger kids being thrilled to be given a book catalog and asked to make selections for themselves and other kids their age. We couldn't buy all those books but we showed the kids what was out there and we invited them to be part of the book selection process! 

I don't want to make it sound like everything was all sweetness and light - there were some dark spots in the picture but the elements that make being a librarian such a wonderful career were all there. No one can change anyone else except themselves but one library and one librarian can show folks possibilities that they may never have imagined either by sharing interesting and entertaining fiction or fact. We can't know the all the results of what we do but we can see some payoff almost at once when a customer brings back a book or exclaims in excitement at something found on a website.

Tags: customers, importance of libraries, information discovery, librarians, libraries, libraries and communities
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