National Library Week

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It’s the second week of April, which means it’s National Library Week! If you didn’t know that was even a thing, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But I promise I didn’t just make it up off the top of my head. It’s real.

In the early 1950s, a partnership between publishers and the American Library Association formulated the idea of taking a specific week and using it to jointly promote literacy. The brainchild of that particular think tank was National Library Week. It was first celebrated in the late 1950s, although I have seen different years in different historical account publications so there might be some discrepancy on when it “officially” began.

Why April? It’s already School Library Month (which I still didn’t know was a thing until I read a press kit about NLW). And since NLW began, the second week has become about more than just promoting literacy, it’s also about celebrating the people who promote it all year long. National Library Workers Day is Tuesday of this week. National Bookmobile Day is Wednesday of this week. And just for good measure, I’ll also point out that Thursday of this week is Support Teen Literature Day.

It’s a busy week.

I have seen signs around our library in the past about NLW, but never paid that much attention to it. But this year, I joined the volunteer group that helps raise extra funds for our local library and also works some of the events our branch hosts. Our head librarian came to talk to us about NLW and some of the special programming they had lined up for it.

In a day and age where federal library funding is being ripped to shreds, funding at the state level is being threatened (or in my state, demoralized), and ebooks are so accessible to so many–but not all–you might start to wonder why even fight it anymore. I don’t. Because every week, sometimes more than once a week, I visit my local library and I notice people.

  • The same high school kid who is always at the computer bank doing his homework. He doesn’t have internet at home, but he lives close enough to walk to the library after school.
  • The accountant helping people prepare their tax forms free of charge. He helps anyone who shows up on the days he’s there, but he gives anyone over sixty-five first priority.
  • The mom in scrubs who is studying a textbook while watching her children out of the corner of her eye.
  • The young woman who has a new student with her every few weeks for a tutoring session. Her wards always leave looking like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.
  • The busload of kids from a local daycare who get a special storytime each week just for them.
  • The local chess club that boasts members of almost all ages.
  • A monthly meeting of a STEM club that challenges 8-12-year-old kids to learn coding and robotics.
  • Classes being held on gardening, cooking, genealogical research, nutrition, etc.
  • Game nights for adults who would like to meet more people in the community, but don’t enjoy going to bars or clubs.
  • Book launches. I’ve seen local authors being promoted by our library as if they were family. “You should come to see her at the launch party! She’s been coming in for years and now we’re going to display her book right over here! Isn’t it exciting?”

There is so much more. A library is more than just a collection of books, though I think that is still a beautiful thing. A library is an opportunity, a community, and a safe place. So stop by yours sometime this week and celebrate all the reasons why libraries are still important.

Blind Date with a Book

For the month of February, my local library is hosting an event called “Blind Date with a Book”. A selection of books has been wrapped up so nobody can see the cover. This means you have no idea who the author is or what the title might be. Each package has a card with a code for the library staff to use to check the book out to you (so they don’t have to open it on the spot) and a genre for the book inside the package. You find a genre that you usually like to read and pick a package at random, take the book home, and fill out the rating and review card to return with the book.

I checked out my book this week. I haven’t had a chance to open it yet so the only thing I know about it so far is that it’s a Romance. I’m stoked. Even if I end up disliking the book, the concept is fun. As my librarian put it while she checked out my “blind date”, “If you love it, great! You might have just discovered a new author to follow. If not, no harm no foul and you can always try again if you’d like.”

As far as Valentine’s themed promotions go, I think this one is the best I’ve seen in a long time. Nobody is left out. It doesn’t matter if you’re married, single, dating, or completely uninterested in all things romantic. Anybody can find a genre they like and have a fun “blind date”. Just like in real life, there is no guarantee your “blind date” will go well and you may end up abandoning it early on. Or it might be fun and refreshing. You might have a hot date with a Thriller; an out of this world good time with a Sci-Fi; a magical night with a Fantasy. Okay, my maturity level is dropping. I’ll stop.

Anyway, here’s hoping my blind date goes well. I’ll have to check in with y’all next week and let you know!

 

An Ordinary Fairy Tale

I was reminded of something my husband did for me back when our oldest child was born and wanted to brag on him a little. So today might get a little mushy.

When I was a little girl, my favorite Disney princess was Belle. She was a brunette and a bookworm. And people thought she was a little weird. Y’all. She was my people. I loved singing along with candlesticks and teapots. And it wasn’t weird to me that she was a human woman in love with what was essentially a living stuffed animal. I was little and slept with a teddy bear every night. It made sense to me.

And what made even more sense in my head was that she began to fall in love with Beast after he gave her a big library. A whole library. With ladders. And three-story windows. Fireplaces and comfy chairs. I would live there if I could. Ever since that scene, I have wanted my own library.

Marie Kondo says that I should probably have no more than thirty books. I have no hate for her, truly. But that goes against my dream. I will choose to ignore that advice. I want to live among hoards and mountains of books.

And now I do. Let me back up.

Clearly, I love to read. I always have. However, when I had my first child, I had a hard time fitting in time for anything that I wanted to do just for me. I think all new parents go through that. It can be difficult, no matter how much you love and cherish your child. I remember telling my husband that I didn’t feel like my own person anymore. He was concerned and did his best to be a supportive partner and try to shoulder a little more of the load. But being that he doesn’t have mammary glands, there were certain limitations.

During late night feedings, I often had to find something to occupy my mind (besides the general and ever-present terror that I would never be a good enough mother) to help keep me awake. I would read. While I pumped, I would read. And the more I read, the more I felt like me. This belonged to me. This wasn’t a Mama activity. It was a Kathryn activity.

For my next birthday, my husband gave me a kindle. It was certainly pricier than we usually go for birthday presents, but he wanted me to be able to download books from the library in the middle of the night as I rocked our son. He even got his mom to coordinate gift ideas with him and get me a gift card to buy books from Amazon to start my–wait for it–library.

It wasn’t three-stories tall. It doesn’t have fireplaces (unless I want to use a picture of one as my lock screen). There are no comfy chairs or ladders. But there are hoards and mountains of books. They are digital mountains, but mountains nonetheless.

My husband. He’s my prince. My fairy tale.

Because he gave me a library.

A Family Library

Earlier this summer, my younger child took his first steps. He’s one. It was a big moment. As every parent would be, I was beyond proud of this milestone. I took pictures. I called dad at work. I gave him a big hug and lots of mommy kisses. But I wasn’t the only one cheering him on.

Let me back up a little.

My older child is four years old. During the school year, he attends preschool twice a week. If he gets a good behavior report, I take him to the library as a reward. He loves it. There are toys, games, puzzles, and books. It’s an air-conditioned playground filled with magic and stories. Sometimes when the weather is nice we will also visit the city park’s playground. But his first request is the library.

All throughout my second pregnancy, I marched into the library with my older child and the librarians would give me knowing and sweet smiles when I was a tired, bedraggled mess. When I didn’t show up for a few weeks, but my older child made his appearance with alternating grandmothers, they commented that they couldn’t wait to meet our newest family member.

And then, for months, they let me break the “no food or drink” rule as I brought everything I needed to be prepared for feeding a hungry baby. Granted, it was usually just a bottle of water, but it’s still a rule and they still purposely ignored the fact that I was breaking it.

As he started crawling, the staff would each come to coo at him and cheer him on. And then one day, he did it. Right there in the library, with one of the librarians in the adjacent aisle. He walked. From the fire truck activity table to the bookshelf filled with toddler favorites. Three steps. His first.

Once again, I was allowed to break a rule. This time it was the “no cell phones” rule. I called my husband and in very excited but hushed tones told him that our little munchkin could walk. The librarian spread the word to the other staff members and by the time we made it to the circulation desk to check out my older son’s selection for the week, everyone knew. And they congratulated him (and me). And they asked to take his picture.

They got my permission to use that picture on the library blog. They didn’t tell me when exactly it would happen, but I gladly granted their request.

Well, now the day has come. It wasn’t just a happy moment to add to our library’s specific page. They made my son Patron of the Week for the entire regional system, which covers a lot of our state. The post points out that a library can be a place for a lot of firsts, “first library card, first storytime, first “a-ha” moment, and…your first steps.”

It is such a silly thing to be proud of and excited about, and yet I am. My son’s first “award” is (tangentially) related to books and my book nerd self is loving it. It’s sweet and fun. And it makes me feel more connected to my community in a way. The library staff isn’t just a group of smiling, kind faces that we see each week. They’re almost like extended family. They want to celebrate life’s big moments with us.

They noticed when my older son moved into the “I can read alone!” books. They cheered him on with gusto. And when my younger son started walking, they got out the camera and shared the news like proud grandparents. That’s special to me because my family lives several hours away. My husband has cousins a little over an hour down the road, but most of his family is more than a hop, skip, and a jump too. And it takes a village to raise a child. Knowing that we have people seeking to be a part of our village, at a time when it is easy to feel alone, is a blessing I can’t describe.

So don’t you ever tell me that books don’t bring people together. Because that post is right. The library can be a place for a lot of firsts, including the first time you realize that you’re home, you belong, and you’re a part of something bigger.