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Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Discussion: Community Service

It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day today and we are open here at the BPL.  Which is also why I was so late on the Monday Discussion this morning; we have been busy.

One of the nice things about MLK Day is how the country has used the example of Dr. King and made celebrating this day more than just an extra day off of school for kids.  It has become a day of service.  Employers encourage their workers to take the day off and often arrange for a group service project.

This got me thinking about our jobs as public library workers.  Yes, you can not work with leisure readers without loving to read, but all of us who choose to ply our profession at the public library do so because we care about helping people.  Our job is all about community service.

The library is a place used by people representing all subsets of your community.  I know for me, being able to help all comers with any question they may have, and thus, making their day a little better, is why I do this.  Goodness knows it is not for the money.

Helping people with whatever they need from the latest best seller to tax forms, to medical information to help them to understand a new diagnosis better, for example, is why I am here.  When I ask you if you need help, I truly want to be the one to help you.

I still remember a patron from years ago who I helped to find an obituary in our local paper from the 1930s.  For this patron it was the last piece of a genealogy puzzle he had been working on for decades. The question was simple to me, but to him, it was everything.  This ability to provide life altering services to people every day and not charging them for it, is a joy.

So I thought for today, in honor of the King holiday, I would ask everyone to share their stories of service.  If you don't work in a public library, share a personal story.

You can follow past Monday Discussions here.


John BPL RA said...

There have been so many experiences that I've had while working at the library that it is hard to narrow it down to one. If I had to choose a favorite it would probably be the time I helped a girl with a report she was doing on ancient Egypt. She was so frazzled with trying to learn about the religion and the various ancient gods that her report had to focus on. She ended up getting an "A" and she returned to the library with her mother some time later just to thank me.

Kathy BPL RA said...

It doesn't take much for me. If someone comes back and tells me that they loved the book I suggested, that makes me happy. I love to see people's faces light up when I tell them "yes, we can do that." Lots of the time I feel like we help people who have heard no a whole lot in their life and we not only get to tell them yes but that it also doesn't cost anything.

Betty said...

I'm completely in agreement here. The big impetus for coming to work is to give someone what they want (or need), especially if it's someone who radiates "no hope" when they come to the RA desk.

And I also love hearing, "it's free??"

Good feeling.

Lizzy said...

My favorite experience was when a woman came in with a list of medical terms and asked for definitions of them. I printed up definitions of each of her terms and she read through them all at the desk. While reading, she created a new list of terms based on words in the definitions that she didn't know. After the whole process was over, she was so happy because she finally understood the medical report that her doctor had given her. Understandable, reliable medical information is, for me, the most rewarding to give out.

Mike said...


My favorite experience took
place here quite a few years ago.
A WWII veteran spent nearly 50
years trying to track down the
name and origin of a statue he
saw in Europe as his troop was
heading back to the U.S. He had
forgotten what country it was in
but could describe it well enough
that I was able to find out where
it was and it's history. He was
thrilled and for years after
whenever he came in he would come
to say hi and thank me and say
how much fun he had telling other
people that we found it.