I am grateful for Mr. Blow’s New York Times opinion piece, “Thankfulfor Libraries”, published Nov. 23. Our experiences are different, but our gratitude is the same. His article had me set aside time to look at not only my gratefulness of being a Library Director, but also to go down my own library memory lane of appreciation.
I remember my parents and favorite aunt, Wilma, reading to me as far back as kindergarten. I remember my parents signing us up for the book-of-the-month club and receiving a book of choice in the mail monthly. I remember reading the biographies of journalist Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (pen name/non de plume Nellie Bly) and nurse Florence Nightingale when I was in second grade, having chosen them at our public library with my very own library card. I remember moving to books about time travel in third grade. Somewhere around that time Johnson Publishing Company (Chicago, Ill.) began publishing a magazine titled Ebony Jr. for Black children who might not, otherwise, see themselves in literature. I don’t recall this magazine being in the public library, but it was in the homes of some of my Black American family members and friends.
I have very fond memories of libraries, but never considered being a librarian, let alone Library Director, until being recruited when I moved to New York. I was in the library putting the finishing touches on research for my first children’s story, published in Highlights for Children, when I was recruited. I am humbled when I think of it all, but here I am.
Like Mr. Blow, I was that “but why” child. I always wanted to know more than the answers I was given to the many questions I had and I was that child who was thankful for encyclopedia set we had. I don’t think I know the meaning of being bored.
Mr. Blow’s opinion piece also took me down a “quotes” memory lane.
“For those without money, the road to the treasure house of the imagination begins at the public library.”
— Pete Hamill (author and journalist)
This was one of my favorite email signatures many years ago, but as we grow, we learn. Libraries are not limited to, but cross socioeconomic lines.
“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries. “
— Anne Herbert (author and journalist)
This became a favored email signature during 2008-2009. I could have added it again in 2020.
“Cutting libraries during a recession is like cutting hospitals during a plague.”
— Eleanor Crumblehulme, Library Assistant, University of British Columbia
This is my favorite quote during budget season as it is very hard for me to fathom those who don’t understand the value of libraries. It is hard for me to imagine libraries, the soul, life and revival of communities, being politicized when they help so many constituents from all walks of life. Hence, the Norwalk Public Library’s mission statement:
The Norwalk Public Library, with our open access to diverse resources, is the information and cultural center for Norwalk citizens and business.
I have, however, landed on the following two quotes and can’t decide which one I like better.
1) “A good library reflects its community’s needs. We listen a lot to our patrons and implement their ideas whenever possible,” said Stephanie Green then Branch Manager of Harris County Public Library in Texas, now (married) Stephanie Barnes, Outreach and Public Stephanie Barnes, Outreach and Public Services Librarian, Pine Mountain Regional Library System in Georgia.
2) “Every person, organization, and even society reaches a point at which they owe it to themselves to hit refresh—to reenergize, renew, reframe, and rethink their purpose,” said Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO in a Fortune magazine 2021 article. He was talking about hitting refresh to rediscover Microsoft’s soul and imagine a better future for everyone.
Both quotes reflect the mission of great public libraries!
Director, Norwalk Public Library