Friday, November 15, 2019

Do you want to change the world? Visit the library.

Long brown hair drapes down, a curtain that frames the man's large sunglasses. Joy sweeps over his body. It moves him to dance, and he begins to rap. His items are on the shelf behind the desk, waiting for him-and this is a cause for celebration.

I walk past this elated man with my children and a load of books in tow. I smile, and my heart swells with gratitude for this place, this building where a man raps gleefully as a librarian fetches his items. Where toddlers play and elderly people sit at desks with word puzzles. Where homeless people lounge, finding solace from the weather and the noise of the city. I think about the many blissful hours my children and I spend here at the library, and I wonder, Why don't more people come here? Do they realize what they are missing? 

The library is a refuge, a place of joy, a school of empathy, a center of education, and a gathering place for countless individuals. If we want to build bridges in our local community, if we want to influence the culture-and even change the world-we should seriously consider visiting the public library.

Yes, there resources and books aplenty. Yes, there are classes and events. Yes, there are databases and streaming services and a plethora of other useful materials. There are all of these things, but there is one benefit of libraries that I don't see discussed enough: the community of people.

Some may see the library as a stuffy, silent edifice of knowledge only for scholars who sit and research all day. However, we need to move past this antiquated image. The public library is no longer just for academics; the library is for all of us. It is a living, breathing fountain of community, fellowship, and knowledge.

The public library is a valuable asset to a community of human persons, for here members of the public can gather regardless of age, race, creed, or economic status. The library is not just for one specific group of people. It is for all of us. So here, we gather: the homeless, the missionaries, the parents energetic children, the virtual school students, the public school students, the retired people, the unemployed, the business owners, the atheists, the Muslims, the Christians, and any other group of people in the community. We all belong here.

When I walk into the local library, I feel at home. The librarians welcome me with smiles and true kindness. They have watched my children grow, they have listened to our concerns with empathy, and they have been an integral part of our lives. In a typical week, we spend anywhere from three to six hours in the public library, and those are hours very well spent. We have forged wonderful friendships with other people, we have discovered wonderful books, and we have enjoyed delightful conversations. The public library has changed our lives.

I am stunned that many people do not come and experience this incredible place. People have there reasons for not coming to the library, and while some are simply unmotivated to go, I've noticed that other people are discouraged due to certain programs offered at the library, or perhaps a lack of literature that appeals to them. Maybe they're even a bit frightened by the librarians. While I can understand these objections, I have to wonder if depriving ourselves of the library is the answer. Instead, what if we looked at these problems in a new light?

Did you know that many public libraries accept requests for future book purchases? I have honestly been shocked-and delighted-that the public library has purchased quite a few Catholic books for circulation. If there's a book that looks good, that you'd love to read, request it-they may wind up adding it to the system. If you don't have any books to request, but just want to find something to read, talk with the librarians. After all, they are here to help us.

Have you considered attending an event at the public library? Why not? If none of the events appeal to you, perhaps you can think about what you would attend, and you could ask a librarian if any public library location nearby offers that type of event-or if they have considered offering it at your location.

If you are afraid of the librarians, why is that? The librarians are not here to stand in silent judgment of us and our noise levels. Although they seek to maintain a proper environment in the library, they are also present to help us access the treasures that the library contains. Furthermore, I'm guessing that many librarians have "seen it all." So, if you are scared to walk into the library because you are illiterate or because you don't feel like you're "smart enough," please know that the library is here for you. The librarians are here to help you. In the hundreds upon hundreds of hours that I have spent at the library in my adult life, I have only had a couple of experiences with grumpy librarians. I've found that numerous librarians are extremely compassionate, understanding, and helpful.

Before we know it, the new year will begin, and people will make all sorts of resolutions. They'll create goals to change their lives. Perhaps, as we ponder life changes in the new year, we can look at the library. Maybe we can resolve visit it more often, or attend events that the librarians host. Instead of rushing in, grabbing books, and rushing out again, perhaps we can start spending a little bit more time at the library as we browse the bookshelves or relax in a comfy chair. The public library is an incredible asset to our communities, and sometimes, we forget about what a tremendous gift it is. Let's embrace and use this gift.

If we all begin frequenting the library, what could happen? Will we finally see who lives in our neighborhoods? Will we discover that we may actually have more in common than we once believed? Will we find ourselves able to acknowledge our shared humanity despite any differences we have? Will we feel more at home in our cities and discover what it means to live in a thriving community?

Let's visit the library and find out.


  1. I love this. There really is no place like the library!

  2. We love our library! We love meeting new "neighbors" there and attending story time. Several times I have made suggestions for book purchases (things I want to read and things I would like for my kids for school). They've always purchased these!

    1. That's wonderful that you've had such good experiences with your local library! They can definitely be helpful regarding books you want to read but don't necessarily want to buy yourself.

  3. I love it too! I am hopeless about returning books on time, but those fees are ones I gladly pay. I've somehow missed your blog updates this month and have enjoyed catching up. I've got a few books to read now from your book post.thanks!

    1. Ellen, I am so glad that you enjoyed this! Library fines are not fun, but those are definitely dollars well-spent (we accidentally damaged a book a few months back and while I disliked having to fork over a substantial amount of money for a library book, we've gotten to read so many good books for free that I felt better about it). I hope you enjoy those books!