2014-07-11 / Community

Library Links

A busy place
By Rachel Davis

Saturdays are one of the busiest days at my library, and this past Saturday, being just after a holiday, was crazy busy. In fact, any day either before or after a holiday is guaranteed to be a whirlwind of activity at the library. Before a holiday, people come in to stock up on audiobooks for long car trips, movies for late movie nights, books for beach reading in the summer, or reading in front of the fireplace in the winter. Picture how the grocery store is when a big storm is predicted, and you’ll get the idea (in fact, we’re almost just a busy as the grocery store before a big storm as well!) After a holiday, when the library has been closed during what would have been a normal working day, its as if people are going through library withdrawal and they need to visit the library in droves to make up for that one lost day.

I was working in the children’s library on July 5. It was a typical day of activity, but there was just more of it. Kids signed up for the summer reading program, or came in to pick up prizes. Parents asked for recommendations for kids just starting to read on their own, or for kids who were just transitioning into chapter books.

Some kids looked for the next book in favorite series, while others, having finished a favorite series, were looking for recommendations for another one. Parents registered kids for story and craft programs. Families came in for DVDs for weekend movie nights. Many, many books were returned and needed to be shelved. Amidst all of this, a frantic Skype bubble would pop up on my computer screen from the circulation desk with the single word “help?” meaning that there was a line of people waiting to check out and the librarian at the front desk needed some back up. And although I didn’t make it over to the adult side of the library at all that day, apparently the activity over there mirrored what was going on in the children’s library.

I love busy days like that, not only because the constant activity is invigorating and makes the time fly by, but because it reminds me of why I became a librarian in the first place. It’s not just that I love helping people—especially kids—find just the right book at the right time (which I do,) and not just that I believe in the truly democratic nature of a public library (free and open to everyone,) it’s that I am never bored, and there is always something new to create, learn, or do.

Right after I graduated from college with a degree in English, I went straight into a Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. While there, I began working as an editorial assistant for the book review section of a national political science journal, which happened to be located at the university. I was unhappy with the MFA program, and my focus turned more to the publishing world. I ended up moving to Colorado a few years later, and working for a small, academic book publisher as an assistant to the political science editor. I had no particular interest in political science—it was jus the area I had fallen into—and after about a year of editorial assistant hood, I found that I was terribly bored. I saw a notice that the Boulder

Public Library was seeking volunteers to be trained as Junior Great Books discussion leaders. I went through the training, and ended up volunteering to lead book discussion groups with third-graders.

This was the most fun and rewarding experience I had had in a long time, and it suddenly dawned on me that I should become a librarian and do this sort of thing all the time. I remembered a friend in Arizona, also dismayed with the MFA program, lamenting once, “I should have gone to library school instead. There are libraries everywhere, I could go anywhere with a library degree.” It had never occurred to me before that there was such a thing as “library school,” but after my Junior Great Books experience, I decided to look into it. I ended up heading back to the University of Arizona with a full scholarship (my writing and publishing experience put me a in a great position to be a successful library school candidate) and I completed my degree with a full course load in a little over a year.

When it was time to look for a job, I really didn’t have a reason to stay in Arizona, so I decided to apply for jobs in places in the country where I thought I might like to live. I missed having four seasons, so New England was a top choice. It just so happened that the children’s librarian position in Cape Elizabeth came up, and this is where I ended up. That was almost 21 years ago! At that time, libraries were just beginning to offer programs for the very, very young—story time for babies was a new and innovative thing—and that was one of the first new programs I introduced when I began as children’s librarian. I called it “Mother Goose Time,” following a program model I had learned about in a library school course on service to young children. Of course, 21 years later, that first crop of babies who sat on their parents’ laps in circle on the floor of the children’s library have now graduated from college.

Many of them still come to the library when they come home to visit their parents. I even have several babies at Mother Goose Time these days whose parents used to come to the library as children. Aside from an indication that I’m getting old, to me this is an affirmation of the enduring power of libraries. While forms of media evolve and change over time, people are still people, kids are still kids, and parents still want to share the stories and experiences they had as children with their own children. The continued busy-ness of public libraries is a testimony to that. In some ways, public libraries are very different 21 years later. In other ways, they are very much the same—always interesting, ever vibrant, and, like the New England seasons themselves, reliably being renewed.

Rachel Q. Davis is the Assistant Director/Children’s Librarian at Thomas Memorial Librrary in Cape Elizabeth

Return to top