The Community the Library Built

‘Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.’

R David Lankes

The library…

I know I’ve written more than a couple of times about the library here. However, I don’t believe you can write about and laud the library too much. The library is a wonderful place filled chock-full of imaginary worlds, valuable information, resources some don’t have access to any other way, movies and books, computers and community rooms, and the list goes on and on. Libraries can be the center of a community, if given half a chance.

And that’s the crux of the situation at present. The state of the world via a virus that we still know so little about and are still seeing the effects of in so many ways took away the half a chance needed for so many things, libraries included.

When the sad state of affairs began almost three years ago, we still resided on our little piece of the mountain in the Smokies. Already quite isolated, we didn’t really feel the pressure at first of the “new normal” the virus would bring to our door for the next 24-plus months. However, that didn’t mean we were untouched. Vital community resources were altered to accommodate the need for insulating the citizens at large against the possibility of falling ill. The library was among the first casualties of a host of regulations. It in a word closed.

No more story time for the kids. No more book club for the adults. No more computer access or internet services for those without except for the library. No more “free” books. No more movies. No more writer’s club, community rooms, movie nights, and no more feeling of community.

Gone. All of it in the blink of an eye.

I know on the surface, the library might not seem like that great a loss to some, especially considering the scope and breadth of so much loss—schools being closed, no visiting loved ones in nursing homes and hospitals, babies coming into a scary world with only their mother and a doula present, stores limiting hours and products. A million lives lost. But each loss held and still holds significance no matter its severity. Each thing lost had an impact, with some impacts still reverberating loudly throughout the world.

Fast-forward 24-plus months. Stores are still not properly stocked although we can go into them without a mask and for extended periods of time now to peruse the near bare shelves. We can visit our loved ones. Babies are being born in rooms filled with their parents and families again. A million lives are still being mourned. And the libraries?

Right now, I’d categorize most libraries, particularly small ones with limited funding, in the bad category. Not by their own devices, but simply because the rebuilding process has begun and with limited funding a resources it’s tough to start over. The collections, as it were, are now opened back up for the citizens to enjoy. There are a number of good libraries and almost zero great ones. Again, not by their own device but it’s a struggle being in the rebuilding stages.

Since moving back to the heart of the Ozarks, I’ve been in a sort of rebuilding stage myself and it’s just been recently I’ve been able to begin reestablishing myself not only in my new-old community but as a local author. A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me I should be rebuilding myself as local author nearly exclusively on the local level. Duh! I struck out one morning with a goal in mind. Find the elusive local author’s group, one of the casualties of the virus. In person meetings were the thing of fantasies during those 24ish months. And honestly, a Zoom meeting just isn’t the same and so many folks just simply gave up. What I found on my quest that day was that author groups are still trying to make a comeback. After a visit to my local branch of the county library system and a few phone calls, I happened upon a group forming up in the next county over headed by the local library there. I am so excited! In person, for real meetings begin in August and I will be one of the first members to take advantage of this little piece of returning to “normal.”

Once that hurdle was cleared, I returned to my own local county branch library with a handful of books, bookmarks, and cover placards to donate. And, in a few days, my titles will have been catalogued and will set alongside the titles of other local authors on our own special designated shelf. Outstanding! I was even approached by the librarian as to my interest in doing an author event in the community room, just as soon as the big book sale is over in a couple of weeks. Why yes! I am definitely interested in that. I’m thinking I might utilize this same opportunity to do the launch and rollout of the third installment of S3 series, Residue, when it goes to press.

Great libraries build community. That is so very true. And my local library is well on its way back to that elite status with the return of not only author group meetings, but book club is back along with children’s summer reading challenge and a host of other upcoming events. They are building community and it is a sight to behold.

Be on the lookout for announcements concerning not only the release date for Residue, but launch events to include a library book signing.

What’s the status of your local library? Have you checked it out since things have started to normalize? What are some of the fun activities and events happening there? I hope everyone’s library, like mine, is working toward building community.

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