The Importance of Libraries

For me, working in a library is the most rewarding work a person can do. The idea of giving something to someone for free, something that helps a person attain what they truly desire, is invaluable. I afford people materials and access they care to make use of, for leisure or for business. I am able to help with queries a person may have, with an answer. I learn on the job by way of doing, in practice. No one tells me what to do; I make decisive on-the-spot decisions at the drop of a hat, in order to assist individuals. And people come to me really looking for something, and I hope to help them find that thing. This is a truly rewarding career, passion, activity, and yes, you could say, “job” or even “work”. It is an organization and association of which I take great pride in being a part of. Now I ask, are you part of a library?

When I was a kid I always thought the lady, or man, working behind the library desk was rigid, stiff, seasoned, and unavoidable while I was in the building — which they are. I found this slightly intimidating and extremely helpful at times while perusing the shelves for titles. The librarians at the La Crescent elementary school library always devoted a half-an-hour of their class day to read to us; I remember Ms. Nielson once started crying over some lines in a book about a boy dying, his name was etched in wet cement. I forget the title, but I will always remember how impactful that reading was. It was better than any poetry reading, or open mic performance I have been to so far in Minneapolis, and I was in 3rd fucking grade. Think about that.

When I was a young adult I would go to the La Crescent Public Library and play Rodent’s Revenge at the desktop computers, checkout DVDs (free of charge) of which I did not own, and then, as I ripened with age, more frequently, I would check out actual books. At first I would read ghost stories, the likes of Haunted Heartland, until finally I graduated to Tom Robbins and Vonnegut. I would read these texts on the deck of the Julia Belle Swain, as I was a deckhand at the time, and guarded the steamboat throughout the lonely water’s edge night.

Without these resources I would have been lost. I would have been bored mindless had my nose not been buried in a book. These were my treasures.

Imagine, getting paid to read. You can’t, right? Well, I can. That is what I sort of did, and sort of still do. I could sit on the deck of a steamboat on the Mississippi, near La Crosse’s Riverside Park, and read Mark Twain, or Tom Wolf, or any book that made it into my hands, for hours and make money — even Klosterman. These were works offered free to me at the library, and I couldn’t go through enough of them. I would sit and read important and gruff literature from Hemingway to perhaps Plato — fuck the disease of love.

These days, I can remember vividly, sitting on a light blue deck biding my time, reading in a white plastic lounge chair just waiting for the shift to end, only the moonlight present, watching for vandals or thieves. After, I would ready myself under streetlamps for the drive home. I knew I would be doing this again in the morning. This was in summertime, I had little restrictions as long as I did my job well, which I did. I knew by reading, and through experience, to be punctual, always.

Today, I stand in a university library setting, no deck chair, no deck, but there are still books.

I never knew the importance of libraries until I made it behind the scenes. People actually care, they actually can get you things without cost that you would pay buku bucks for on the internet, or at chain bookstores. These people move, and do, and find things.

I say this in all seriousness: if libraries did not exist doctors would not exist. This statement may seem a logical fallacy to suggest in the least, but hear me out. Without libraries there would be more illiterate people, more bored individuals, more daily crime, and more foolhardy-consumers spending money where it need not be spent: in publications, in chain bookstores, and on titles that will age like store bought roses.

Libraries are the only institution that truly offers benefits at low- to no-cost, mostly free to the masses, that benefit progressive intellectual beings. They offer open knowledge in literary form, physical and digital, vast archives of material of agency, with easy and fast internet accessibility. They are an enterprise, a non-profit, and an educational program all in one.

They have stood the test of time, while creating immensely sophisticated pupils, minus college debt. –Really? You say, “Sign me up!” You say, “I am ready!” Well, you already are signed up (sort of), and good. Walk into the building and start going through the stacks, or log on to the internet. You need not pay for Wi-Fi, or an expensive coffee to play; ask for a guest pass, and get a library card. They may even give you a job (me).

I say we would have no doctors because every single person striving for that authoritative title enters the library, employs its system, and without these sources, they would not be able to write their doctorates or make those grades. I stand at the desk and greet individuals who use the computers, scour through online resources, and cite these sources in their papers, or in their minds; they use the materials that the library gives to create something for themselves, for their betterment, bettering those around them — this affects the whole of society at its core.

When a person comes to the circulation desk and requests a book, whether for academics or pleasure, more oft than not, it is there, for them, just waiting. People will tell me, they will say, “Oh, libraries are outdated, the internet and computers are filling that space, making them obsolete…” I say, “Sure”, though the library offers those resources as well, and in a better way.

Guest passes, interlibrary loans; reference librarians, experienced staff; these are the things you will find in a library. I figure having the best tool in the world affords a person nothing if they know not how to use it. That is why library staff is there to help you, to ready you for whatever figurative mountain you choose to climb. You want to read on how to be a lawyer or legal theory? There is a book for that. You want to budget time and money better? There is a finance section, and a DIY catalogue. You want to save money on holistic health and practice? There is a book for that. You want to do urban farming? There is a staff member who dedicates their waking life to creating a collected and growing wing of a library for that specific project.

You need not spend money on half measures. You need not look any further. All of the answers to your problems are located in a library, and if it is not found at that specific branch it can be found in one connected through interlibrary loans, which gives patron privileged access to many libraries around the country, even the world.

I figure, why spend money paying some health or spiritual guru for their “professional” opinion, when you can form an unbiased opinion for free in differing books from the library?

Nowadays, many things may be digitized, put onto websites and databases, into online infrastructure, yet there will always be a need for someone to guide, to help, an entity to filter through, to get you to the specific resources you need. So be it. These institutions are there at your fingertips, especially to those who know how to ask the right questions.

A veterinarian may be skilled at performing small animal surgery, yet they may lack the ability to find a sought-after periodical in the library. That task is for the circulation worker to deal with, or the reference librarian who specializes in said topic. These people are there to help you.

See, librarians know all there is to know about books, they know where a book about design is located, just by reshelving it numerous times — practice, or studying the subject, they know cross-topics for a topic you might be interested in. These minor encounters spark and ignite great ideas. They fill the void where a thought ends, and they offer so much more than just having access to a massive tool or archive itself.

Libraries, and their staff members, are society’s priceless resource. They are there, they are free, and they are air-conditioned (most of the time), which is great in the summer. They offer people concepts without a fee, online accessibility, books for adventure, for business, for travel, for leisure, and they offer a helping hand at the desk. — Get that? It doesn’t cost you anything to come into a public library and set up an account. You just need an address, an id, and the ambition to read, to learn, the will power to try and better yourself by stuffing more information into your brain.

There is nothing to push, I am marketing for naught, save for materials for a person to think on. Are you ready to utilize all of your resources? If so, find your nearest library.

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