Electric Libraryland

What I learned visiting 11 libraries in two days.

A tirelessly self-promoting author delivers a book to Mrs. Chambers at Dandridge, TN's Memorial Library.

A tirelessly self-promoting author delivers a book to Mrs. Chambers at Dandridge, TN’s Memorial Library.

I left home on Thursday for the (usually) 5-hour drive to Nashville and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) Mid-south conference. The conference didn’t start until Friday, but I wanted to visit as many libraries as possible between home and there, which required an overnight stay along the way and a lot of miles off the Interstate.

Like any journey, I started off with one set of ideas and reached the end with more insight than I expected. Here are a few of the things I discovered (or was reminded of):

Libraries still matter.

I thought visiting libraries on weekdays at off hours I’d see just a few loiterers around. What I found was a lot of foot traffic, people reading, and patrons talking to librarians. Communities – no matter how small – still need and use their libraries.

Librarians make a difference.

Need help? Ask a librarian. I don’t know any smarter group of people (including brain surgeons) who are as helpful as librarians. True the stakes of librarianship are not as high as for some other brain-oriented professions, but they still take their work seriously and help LOTS of people every day.

Some libraries need more funds!

I walked into a couple of beautiful, new library buildings. But mostly, the libraries I visited could use some degree of updating (some need a lot). This is not a reflection on the job the administrations and staffs are doing, but on the importance of getting resources to these much-used community facilities.

DVD sections are at the front.

You can still hide out in a quiet corner of a library to read and explore books – because the videos are near the front door where they should stay 😉

Children use libraries.

Every place I went had a section with colorful furniture and decorations and colorful, well-used books. Each also had a Young Adult section for teen books separate from the little kids’ section (very important). You can tell that the kids are reading. They need our libraries.

Libraries need “friends”.

“Friends of the Library” organizations do A TON of good for a community library – from taking some workload off the shoulders of overworked staff to raising money for programs and facilities. This is crucial work in our fiscally strapped towns. Being a friend to your library means being a friend to your community.

My conclusion: A literate culture is a healthy culture.

There’s no down-side to engaging people in reading and sharing a love of learning. Exploring the worlds within books fires the imagination and understanding of a whole society. The library is the free and safe place to explore and develop the vision that keeps a culture viable.

The libraries and towns I visited on my short trip and the people I met have really had an effect on me. I reached Nashville feeling uplifted and happy to know that those libraries are out there serving their communities and that there may be some way I can help.

Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.

3 other things I learned at community libraries:

  1. Books age better than shag carpeting.
  2. The real estate where the card catalogs used to stand is a natural spot for the DVD section.
  3. Anyone – and I mean anyone – looks smart in a library.

******

Chris Everheart is a recovering reluctant reader turned award-winning author of books for young readers.
Read his YA thriller described as “unputdownable” and “will draw in even the most reluctant readers”:
THE LEAGUE OF DELPHI: Book I of the thrilling Delphi Trilogy

A lone teen. A suspicious death. An ancient conspiracy.

Read it now – before the October 2013 release of
Book II: THE DELPHI DECEPTION
Categories: Libraries, Readers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Electric Libraryland

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  9. Great post! I totally agree with all of this. Libraries are a crucial part of any community. Ours is a big part of our daily week schedule. Not only do they offer books for kids to read for FREE, but they offer arts and crafts programs for kids, again for FREE that are now lacking in a lot of public schools. To support your local library is one of the best things you can do for your kids and your home town.

    • Thanks, Ann. It’s amazing to me how important libraries still are – even with all the ‘competition’ like TV, movies, media, and video games. Glad you and the family are there so much!

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