By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department
This year’s theme supplies a good reason: “Libraries Transform.” Over twenty years ago, some were saying libraries would go the way of VHS tapes, floppy disks, and beanie babies. But libraries are still going strong! Again, one big reason is how libraries transform people who visit. Please let me illustrate with a few examples.
One morning as the doors open to WCPL, a very focused patron marched in and went immediately to the computer center where he started searching for jobs. After 20 minutes of what he called, “Nothing,” he asked for help. He explains how he just lost his job and desperately needed to find employment. A librarian responds to his request by leading him to a few of the better job search sites, while at the same time helping him narrow his search. This was so helpful that he found three promising jobs to apply for. But he soon asks for help again, as his computer skills were challenged by the application process. The librarian takes time to help him set up a profile and become familiar with just what the applications are seeking. Upon finishing the applications, the man stops to tell the helpful librarian, “Thanks for being so kind to me and taking time. It restores my belief in human kindness.” This patron continues to come to the library, and will never forget how a librarian took time to help transform his situation.
Several weeks later a library patron approached the reference desk with a request. She had retired from two careers but, in her words, “had missed the computer age.” Her children and grandchildren asked her again and again to learn computers, but she held back. Until today. The patron wanted to “turn over a new leaf” and learn how to use a computer, so as to surprise her children by being able to look up answers online all by herself. The librarian gladly set up a one-on-one time with the patron, during which time, the patron disclosed, “I have to tell you, I have arthritis and trembling so bad that I have trouble using the mouse.” Not to be deterred, the librarian scheduled three months of one-on-one times starting with exercises on using the mouse. Although slow going at first, the patron learned to control and use the mouse, which led to creating her first email account. She learned to make and evaluate online searches as well as how to make lists and write letters in Microsoft Word. Over three months she went from being fully dependent on the librarian to semidependence to joyous independence. She reported how her children were impressed with her “entering the computer age,” but that now she uses the computer just because she enjoys it. The patron and her family were grateful that “libraries transform.”
There are many other stories I wish we could relate about patrons who experience the library as a place for transformation. They would talk about learning new skills like Excel; finding interesting books never before considered; discovering Powerspeak Languages to learn a language for their summer vacation; enjoying their first eBook; seeing a program on square foot gardening that doubled their gardening production; tailoring a resume and cover letter for a new career; finding a dyslexia friendly font; and many other stories. All would tell of how libraries transform and become very personal reasons why we celebrate National Library Week.