The Unquiet Librarian: Libraries transform
By Virginia Roberts
Rhinelander District Library Director
National Library Week is April 10-16. The library will be doing a few small things to celebrate, one is to host a themed photo contest. Entries may be of a “shelfie”—that’s you with your best shelf of books, here or at home, library or personal; a bookface—part of your face artfully covered with a book—to look like part of your face, or part of the book, however it works; or an eye bomb—photos of you dressed up with googly eyes and other cartoonish enhancements. Look for examples of these and contest details in the library, on rhinelanderlibrary.org and at facebook.com/RhinelanderLibrary. Libraries (and librarians) transform people.
Recently, one of the readers of this column felt “compelled to write” after reading the little tech safety spiel from the beginning of February. It saved her a whole bunch of trouble when she answered a call from an “IRS Agent” stating there was a lawsuit, and she owed a boatload of cash to the Fed. Thing was, she didn’t owe anything; taxes had been filed every year, including this one, well before April 15.
She knew it. She hung up and called the non-emergency number for the police. It was, indeed, a scam, making the rounds in this area, the nice officer said. Those who called would likely have some of her information, and needed to “verify” other bits like her credit card and her bank routing number, so they could straighten out this little matter right away and avoid any time she might have to spend in court. She mentioned those folks wanting to renew magazines worked in a similar fashion—and how she always asked for a bill—and never got one. She wondered how many others had gotten the call, but were bullied into paying over the phone. She was now empowered, and would share her awareness with friends and neighbors. Libraries Transform lives.
It seems like a small thing, but Rhinelander District Library provides wireless access. Between 750 and 1,100 people a month access the internet with some tech device 24/7 within range of the library—and this number is growing. The library also provides Wi-Fi access to Newbold Township, a member of the district, as part of a pilot project. Anyone who lives in a rural community knows what a big deal it is to have internet available, even if it means sitting in your car 2—or 10 miles from your house. People need access to information, library materials—reserve books or movies, download e-books, upload movies or music, do homework (I am well-acquainted with the late-night, emergency homework upload), and communicate with friends and family. Because of the apparent level of use at Newbold along with the cost, the project was almost terminated last year, as it is not inexpensive, but the library aims to provide as many services as possible to its members, so it was preserved. The Library Board would consider other member townships for wireless internet, as well, if use warrants. In February, Wi-Fi use doubled at the town hall in Newbold. It was odd, as use is pretty much flat that month and those surrounding, because winter. Now I know why. Kim Gauthier, the Newbold township clerk, wrote she was appreciative as she was able to conduct election training at the town hall with all those involved, due to the Wi-Fi. And now, many more folks know it’s available because they used it. Libraries Transform communities.
Libraries Transform as a bridge between the history and the future—
• Today someone found an article on their great-great-grandfather on microfilm.
• Today someone printed out a form they needed to complete their taxes and ran into old friends.
• Today someone got the audio/large print book they were waiting for delivered by Books on the Go.
• Today someone got their first library card– ever, and they were so excited to learn they could reserve books—whenever.
• Today someone found a book to help understand cancer/mental illness/ nerve disorder/aging issues—and was relieved.
• Today someone armchair traveled with a book or DVD/printed out airline tickets for a dream trip.
• Today someone printed out a picture of a family member they have yet to meet.
• Today someone got a job/wrote a business plan/started a new business/learned something new.
• Today a parent/grandparent found a movie they loved as a child—to share with their children/grandchildren.
• Today I found music for my own very tired, ornery teens, exhausted from school and sports, and made them laugh—hard.
• Today a toddler found their new favorite book on trucks/princesses/puppies/kitties/dragons/imaginary whatever.
• Today and every day more kids than you can count race to the library after school to play games, do homework, read, and chat with each other about it all. Yesterday. Tomorrow. Every day.
It’s easy to write libraries promote literacy and provide information, and computers. Because librarians do. We do so much here in our community. The librarians, Board, Foundation, and volunteers serve the community wherever they go as part of who they are. They research, recommend, visit schools and nursing homes, host book clubs, run book sales, or share crafty skills—and work with other institutions like Food for the Mind, the Personal Essentials Pantry, the Northern Arts Council, the Rhinelander Women’s Club, or the Northwoods Genealogical Society—to name just a few. The library is the heart of a strong community. It contains history and art, information, and entertainment. A place not work, school, or home, where people may go, and where they meet others. But for this library to remain vibrant and viable in the community, it too, must transform. It must grow—and change—and build—and you’ll be reading more about that in the coming months, and kindly let me know what you think, too.
Libraries transform. Come celebrate National Libraries Week with us here at Your Library.
Virginia Roberts can be reached at 715-365-1082 or firstname.lastname@example.org.