Friday, 17 November, 2017


Loving My Job @ Your Library

Tracy Kampa, Children’s Library


The drive was long. I managed to turn a 4.5 hour drive into a seven hour tour of Minnesota by getting to Rochester via Brainerd and Mankato. (It’s a convoluted story, but thanks, Dr. Tabbert and the Eye Care Clinic, for responding so quickly to a harried request for a faxed prescription. Kate reports that her fresh contacts are lovely!)  Once I arrived in Rochester, though, I was ready to party hard with my fellow librarians! (Well, probably after a quick nap.)


 Last week I gathered with several hundred fellow bibliophiles for an opportunity to network, learn, and present at the Minnesota Library Association’s annual conference. I am always energized by a good conference, and this one did not disappoint. I attended sessions concerning makerspaces and inclusion and having the courage to radically change up story time. I gave a presentation about shaking up Summer Reading. I listened to passionate pleas for more girl-centered sports books, and I toured the Rochester Public Library’s new “Book Map” shelving system. (Cool idea, but I’m not quite ready to give up on Mr. Dewey’s system.)  


In the exhibit hall I picked up lots of literature, and snagged a few freebies. (And I won a lovely large mug with an Eleanor Roosevelt quote on it! I remain crazy excited about my new mug.) A tiny blue pamphlet published by the American Library Association caught my eye. If you have read this far in this column, you must surely be either a fellow library supporter or a member of my family. Whichever column you fit yourself into, I offer the following fascinating (to me) facts about this country’s libraries:


In  2013, there were 1.5 billion in-person visits to public libraries across the U.S., the equivalent of over 4.0 million visits each day. That’s 2,854 visits PER MINUTE! (Here at the Grand Rapids Area Library we average over 50 visits per hour. Pretty cool, right?) Also in 2013, there were 96.5 million attendees at public library programs; more than all Major League Baseball and NBA games combined.


Reference librarians in public and academic libraries answer nearly 6.6 million questions  per week. Standing in a single file line, the line of questioners would span from Miami, Florida to Juneau, Alaska! Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries more than three times as frequently as they go to the movies. There are more public libraries than Starbucks stores in the U.S. – 17,566 libraries.  I could go on, but so can you. If you want to verify and/ or explore more, check out  www.ilovelibraries.org.


As enthralling as I find the big numbers, these are the facts I want you to know:  today I had a Mom and her three very young boys in the library for about an hour. They played, they found books, they cuddled up in a chair and read together.  I loaned a little girl a pencil with which to do her homework after school. I had a class of 4th graders here for their first library visit of the year-they learned about libraries, they found books, they were smiling and dancing as they left.  At this very moment there are three young people playing Minecraft on the iPads, two young people curled up with books in the corner, and two more checking out our Books in Series section. When I arrived this morning, three sisters were sitting just outside my office, one reading a magazine and two reading books. A young man with developmental delays just left after playing on our preschool computers.  A teen volunteer also just left after finishing a two-hour shift. These are the facts that are important to me, because this is the story of our library.  While conventions are vital to my professional life, it is only so I can apply what I’ve learned to our community. Collectively, my patrons create the narrative of why I love my job. Thank you, Grand Rapids Area Library patrons, and, Happy Reading!



This Week at Your Library:

Monday, October 16: At 9:30 and 10:30, it’s Book Time! Join ECFE teachers in the Story Circle for books, songs, finger plays, flannel board stories, and all other sorts of fun! Then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and a time to play and visit.

Tuesday, October 17: At 3:30 join us for LEGO CLUB! Are you a kid who likes to build? Lego Club is open to everybody! Lego creations are displayed in the Children’s Library between programs.  We supply the Legos, you supply the imagination!

Saturday, October 21: At 10:15 and 11:15 it’s time for Saturday Story Time! Join ECFE teachers in the Story Circle for books and songs, then move to the Community Room for a snack, a craft, and a time to play and visit. Families may earn one Baby Steps coupon for attending this Story Time.