Monday, December 04, 2006

A Library Story

Our first apartment, a teeny third-floor studio in an old, old building in the downtown of our beloved small town, was in sight of the library and the park. I think we saw every movie the library owned on a discarded old VCR and a computer monitor (which we still have) in those days of zero money for entertainment (as well as enjoyed many books of course!) and Ria, who was just a little tyke, made fast friends with many of the librarians. One of our very first dinners there was to the light of a fireworks display in the park - perfectly visible from the windows of our itty-bitty kitchen (that's a picture of the kitchen all decked out for our first Christmas). Those were John's school days - he got his engineering degree 2 1/2 years after we were married (after alternating semesters of work and school).

He got his first "real" engineering job in San Diego and we lived near my family for about 2 1/2 years. These were wonderful years in many ways, but they don't pertain to this particular story. A better job offer and the prospect of buying a first house (which wasn't even remotely possible in San Diego at the time) brought us back to Wisconsin and we managed to buy an old fixer-upper just on the other side of that park and that library that we loved so well (this house hadn't been painted in 30 years!).

By this time Ria and Gus were 4 and 2 and I was expecting Terri. We dove right into kid-type activities in the library and Ria fell in love with story-time. We went there once or twice a week - particularly when we only had one car, but the double-stroller got us all safe and sound across the busy street to the library. Our favorite section in the children's area was the non-fiction. Ria made her way through all sorts of books, but we ate up these picture books and even little Gus had his favorite shelf of football books that he'd always wander over to and start browsing through. One day the head librarian (no longer there) decided to make more room in the children's area by intermixing all of the junior non-fiction with the adult non-fiction. It was still there, but incredibly inaccessible. We cried.

We still kept visiting and enjoying the library, but I made a special effort to start collecting beautiful children's science and history and religion and other good books. This was partly why love2learn started. I didn't know any homeschoolers nearby, I didn't have a car to get around and I loved to share information about great books. We got more involved in the library over time. A few years later the kids and I started helping with the set-up of the library book sale. I was astonished at how well they handled this project. (They weren't always this well-behaved!) We set up in the children's area and they helped me line up books, or at least sat down nearby to look at interesting ones or cooed from the stroller. In the midst of this, we discovered that the Friends of the Library was about to fold because the only person willing to be president didn't think she could manage to do the work on a computer necessary to pull together a newsletter. Well I could do THAT. That was easy!

I helped put together the simple little newsletter - just two or three pages printed out - for two presidents over the next three or four years (and made some great friends in the meantime). The president came to our house during our school day just two or three times a year, very nicely dealt with our chaos and the Friends Board survived. It was such a little thing, so easy for us, but one of those connections that can become very meaningful over time.

The next president didn't need a newsletter editor and we were moving (and busy with getting the house ready to sell) to the outskirts of town anyway, so our trips to the library become more infrequent. The librarians still knew all of us, though, and at the library book sale last year, the Friends board was again in need. These guys do important work (like fund the summer reading program), but they only meet for an hour or two, two or three times a year and they needed a secretary. Easy!

So I came on board as their secretary and dutifully attended the meetings. They were actually rather pleasant and I had some nice little opportunities to mention some worthwhile books, put my two cents in here or there, etc. I even had an opportunity to mention the interest in non-fiction books (especially since I've noticed that some children - especially boys? - are more drawn to non-fiction than fiction). When the need came up about the library tree, it immediately sounded like a good project for our family. They'd like to have it put up during the day and our schedule was flexible. The president wasn't available - she's a public school teacher and it's a busy time of year.

Last year we found some nice unbreakable ornaments and put together the book ornaments as well - everyone loved the book cover pictures on the ornaments! What was really exciting was to develop a repoire with the library staff and board - especially as a homeschooler. Every homeschooler is a "representative" of homeschooling - like it or not, and I tend to feel a particular obligation since I'm also a homeschool grad. This has been a good thing! There is definitely a need out there to "engage the world" and I've been surprised at how many people are open to these ideas, our enthusiasm for learning, and our desire to serve our children's needs to the best of our ability.

I guess you know the rest of the story with the library tree. Not only are we getting some great non-fiction picture books into the library, but the patrons are proving that they ARE interested in these books also, and not just the popular fiction and movies that the library tends to emphasize. To me that's a very happy ending (so far) to the story and, though the library tree is quite a bit of work (unlike the other library tasks I've been involved in), I couldn't be happier with the outcome.

1 comment:

Love2Learn Mom said...

Terri - looking at the first picture said - "That's a kitchen? I thought that was a shelf!"