Thursday, January 8, 2009

Library Love

When I first moved to the USA, I did not yet have a work-permit (it would take a few months to be approved), and I was worried about becoming bored being home all day, while my then fiancee was at work. I desperately did not want to be vegging out in front of daytime TV. I was not driving at that time (for the reason why, please see my entry: Cops, Cars and a Cuppa - my first visit to the US (part 2)), so there was a limit to where I could get. I discovered that my nearest public library was within walking distance, so the first thing I did on my very first day by myself in the US was to visit my local branch, apply for a library card and look around.

Not being used to the way these types of organizations work in the US, it was a little confusing at first, especially as the first librarian I encountered was a little less than helpful. Fortunately, I got through the ordeal, and before long, I was the proud carrier of my first US library card.

Although I've been a book lover all my life, I didn't spend a lot of time in public libraries in England, with the exception of the mobile library (bookmobile) that I spent a lot of time in as a child. That was to change once I moved to Edison, New Jersey. I became so involved with my local library that I soon became an active member of my local Friends of the Library group, a nonprofit organization formed to support the activities of the library by supplementing the dwindling public funding they receive. I'm now proud to be the President of that group.

Libraries can be a great source of information, education and entertainment for new US residents. English as a second language (ESL) classes, information about immigration procedures, help and resources for finding jobs, computers with Internet access, expert reference librarians, as well as programs, newspapers, books and movies are among typical library offerings. Our libraries are especially important in times of economic hardship, the very time when public funding is usually reduced. There was a great piece recently on the Diane Rehm radio show about this.

I was alarmed to read today about the imminent CPSIA laws, which looked set to prevent us from selling used children's books at our annual fundraising book sales. Fortunately, a public outcry to the ambiguously worded and poorly publicized laws resulted in a clarification by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and it looks like it will not affect our sales after all. Still, there may be implications for libraries because new books do seem to be included in these regulations.

4 comments:

Sile B4 said...

I know well the love of libraries. I went to one every Saturday of my life growing up. I lived through books and also the soundtrack albums of all the great Broadway musicals (and maybe I still do). While I was in college, I worked in the periodicals department of our college library. My biggest memory of that 4 year experience was the summer Elvis died. My mom had a friend who was a huge Elvis fan. When he died, every paper in the U.S. had stories and pictures about his life. I waited for the day when the papers would be tossed and the microfilm ordered to replace them. I clipped every Elvis story and picture and sent them off in a box to my mom's friend in South Dakota. Her husband called saying she was experiencing Nirvana. Working in periodicals can be enlightening in a Buddhist sort of way. Here's to libraries...

Graham said...

Thanks so much for sharing that, Sile. It comes as no surprise to learn that you're also a library lover.

Alison said...

Nothing beats the library. It's a source of all good things, and a safe haven in which to enjoy them as well.

Graham said...

Amen!