Wednesday, 29 March 2017

What Does the Library Mean to You?

I've found, in my little blog universe, a like-minded group that has saved me, saved me, at times, from feeling utterly alone in seeking the life I want for myself and my family. Just knowing that so many people are on the same path, be they near or far, has been a comfort when I didn't feel my own passions and interests reflected in my immediate surroundings. I am so grateful to have these connections to people that I can "speak to" and, happily, I can visit their blogs to learn and commiserate and cheer them on in turn. This sense of community, albeit virtual, has been a turning point for my emotional well-being and overall sense of place and happiness.

Another thing that has been paramount to my adjusting to becoming a mom, my struggles with depression and anxiety, and my maturity as an adult has been the local library, wherever I have lived. I have lived in the city (not a big one, didn't love it) where I basically lived and worked and breathed the university library and archives as a student and research assistant. I was even in charge of a small college library in one of my former positions. I have tutored literacy and English as a Second Language at various local libraries and I'm here to say that the safe, welcoming space of a local library is essential to making connections between the literate and those who need assistance. If not for the local library, where will the working person who needs help with their English meet a literacy tutor? At a noisy coffee shop?

When I worked as a life skills and employment support worker for a developmentally delayed young lady, the library was one of our favorite stops because it was a place where she could access the computers, flip through her favorite magazines and check out books that we used in our weekly lessons. The local library is a place of inclusion, empowerment and learning.

More recently, the local library has been a lifeline for me as I navigate writing a weekly column in the local newspaper. I check out books to research much of what I write about, and I encourage my readers to visit the library rather than spending their money on books they can ill afford (it's a frugality column, and though I want to support writers as well, my advice is from the saving money standpoint).

More personally, the library has been a place for me to teach my kids about literacy, community, responsibility, diversity and public service. We use the local library almost weekly. Monthly, for sure. We attend the craft and story mornings and we visit to borrow books and movies. This teaches them to look after someone else's property and keep track of deadlines and respect rules. When we go to the library my kids see people of colours, religions and economic backgrounds they are not familiar with. This is a good thing. We see people that are out of work, using public computers in a determined quest to better themselves. Without these public spaces, where would all of this activity, learning and mingling of cultures take place?

In a world where we are increasingly afraid of each other, how are two farm kids going to be exposed to people that are different? And will they grow up to believe that different is bad, strange, scary or dangerous?

I write a column in the paper about making lifestyle cutbacks to counter the loss of work and wages that many local people have endured in the last several years. I am a firm believer in examining your spending, tracking it, and making painful, uncomfortable choices to bail yourself out. And I can see that the Saskatchewan Government feels it is making those same types of choices when it cuts funding to libraries. But I would ask, on behalf of the people who are out of work, who have possibly lost their jobs and homes and have reduced their cell phone bills and internet bundles, where are they going to go to look for work, improve their resumes, or read a book rather than give in to despair?

With an accountant's eye, one might look at provincial libraries and see a non-essential public service that can be pruned or, in the case of Regina and Saskatoon, eliminated completely (the Province cut all funding to the two largest city libraries, leaving it up to municipal taxes to support those major city libraries). But what will the ripple effects be throughout small communities who have only been able to remain open a few mornings a week? What about the town where we used to live, which only has a k-gr 8 school with no library, whose students traipse across town once a week to the tiny library we used to visit? Will that town lose its library, and thus the school lose its library as well?

If I recall correctly, that little library was only open 10 or 15 hours a week. But it was the community hub in a town of 200 or so people. There were kids crafts, a book club, a place for the town and surrounding farm families to borrow books. It was a place where a tired, depressed new mom went to connect with other grown ups. And it helped immensely.

I want to do something to raise awareness of what's happening. I also need to really sit down and read what the exact situation is. For now, I 'm wondering if anyone out there has ideas what Saskatchewan can do to protest and turn this around. If you are a resident of Saskatchewan, there is a letter writing campaign you can join. Please pass it on to like-minded people.

 Save Saskatchewan's Libraries

Please leave any suggestions you might have in the comments!




2 comments:

  1. Hurrah for libraries! I love that you've paid them homage in this article. I just came from the library over my work lunch break, where I borrowed and started reading "The Art of Money" by Bari Tessler. As a kid, the library was one of my favourite places to spend time, but as an adult, I've learned to appreciate it as the quiet place I can go to study whatever new certification I'm working on (in an endless attempt to climb this "corporate ladder"..) but also where I can walk to, hang out, and just BE over my work breaks when everyone has gone to a delicious yet spendy restaurant for lunch. I loved reading about how important it's been to you, your family, and your community.

    Also - I also love the blogger/online community, and I'm so thankful for meeting other like-minded folks when I don't necessarily have many in my day-to-day world that I can share and talk about those values with. You and your lovely writing and your excellent articles are very high up on my list of absolute faves :)

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    1. Thanks so much, FD. I feel I need to speak up for libraries. At times like these we need to promote them, not degrade and diminish them. Always love to hear from you :) J

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