....this is what our library director said this afternoon. Interesting words, and true on many different levels.
Specifically, we were speaking about a new volunteer at the library. She is a practicum student and I believe this is the first time she's worked in a public library. No holds barred, public library work is VERY different from working in an academic setting. I'll call our new volunteer K. K has to do about 80 hours of volunteering for her class this semester. Since she's interested in adult services, our director assigned her to work with me. So K works Wednesday evenings, and then also comes in Sunday afternoons, and she gets a taste of working an evening and a weekend.
I really like her. She's quiet, but I don't think she misses anything. She jumps right in and helps with whatever needs to be done. K has commented a couple of times that she thinks it's exciting and I think she's really enjoying seeing the differences between working at our casual, and often rowdy, public library, and working in an academic setting of a law library and a reference desk of a main university library.
So, I mentioned today that I thought K was doing a very nice job so far, and seemed to be enjoying it, and our director made a comment about our practicum student being a little meek and wasn't sure how she'd take to working in a public library. I said something about K taking the time to really observe what's going on in a setting she's never been in, and then I made a comment that 15 years ago, our director would have probably thought I was meek. And our director nodded and smiled and said,
"Libraries change people."
I thought that was an extremely interesting and observant comment to make. And so true. I know it's true of me. I'm not scared to speak up anymore, and not scared to expect our rowdy kids to toe the line when they come in, and I don't hesitate to send them on their way if they misbehave. And this assertiveness translates to other areas of my life, too.
But libraries change people in other ways. They give people a chance they might not otherwise have. Libraries give people the opportunity to access information that they might not otherwise be able to obtain. And sometimes, someone just needs a friendly face and a librarian to chat with. Libraries aren't just about checking materials out to people and telling kids to be quiet. More than anything, libraries are about people. In these uncertain times, libraries give people the opportunity to come in, find out about jobs, type up a resume, access books and movies and newspapers and the Internet for free, which is a godsend when a person can't afford to pay for those things.
And in so many ways, libraries have the power to change a person, and maybe make their life better.
I certainly hope so.