More than 15 years ago I had a debate with a co-worker. He was adamantly opposed to paying higher taxes to build a new library. I, of course, was on the other side of the issue. Books are life! No, he insisted, books are dead. Electronic media will replace paper and the need for buildings.
I could not imagine curling up without a real book. The comforting smell of the paper; the whisking sound as I turned pages. Silly me!
The reality is that while I still enjoy sitting down with a good book...hunting for my reading glasses is not fun! Carrying a book around is not always practical. Getting to and from the library...well, I'm a busy woman. I used to be ashamed to say that I read electronically. No more! I have proudly embraced the new media. No glasses necessary, and I can have three or four books going at a time wherever I am -- standing in line at the post office, waiting for an appointment, sitting outside on the porch. I'm a proud convert to the electronic age.
However, that doesn't mean I agree that libraries have lost their importance in our society. Quite the contrary.
As a teacher, I rely heavily on our school librarian. (Shout out to Shawna Shade, "Head" Librarian and Librarian Extraordinaire!) She finds books to spark interest in cynical teenagers, teaches them researching skills, manages our school technology, and provides an environment conducive to studying. I could not function without her.
The next step for my students is the public library. Yes, that one that I debated about with my friend is a reality. Built in 2002, the Farr Branch Library in Greeley is an amazing place. From my end, I encourage students to use the computers and take advantage of the free printing. (The "I-don't-have-a-computer-at-home" excuse does not work.) The library runs programming and summer reading specifically for teenagers. I know firsthand how daunting a task that can be.
I recently borrowed the community room there to host a standing room only school event. The staff could not have been more helpful and accommodating.
And, of course, I still use the library to check out my electronic books! Just because I can do it from the comfort of my home doesn't mean that I don't appreciate borrowed books.
But, this past week, I fell in love with libraries all over again.
My grandchildren are visiting from Massachusetts. January in Colorado -- no surprise that it's cold! What to do? Let's see what's going on at the library!
Fish swimming in a tank, manipulative toys, a tiny train world, and books, books, books. Basically, baby Disneyland! My daughter-in-law checked out CDs to play in the car because we knew we had some long drives ahead of us. The two of us giggled over children's books. We picked out some books that we liked...and figured the kids would like, too. And then there was the class! My grandson, Gavin, listened to stories, practiced his sign language, watched the puppets, danced, and played with other children his age. All totally free of charge. Wow! We left with happy, tired children, and a bag full of goodies to entertain us for the next few days. Thank you High Plains Library District!
Our travels led us to Estes Park. One might think that a small tourist town would not prioritize a community library. Wrong! First there was the storytime program. More puppets, singing, and learning about opposites. Then back to the children's area for more books and more trains. Next came the music class! Stretching, jumping, scarves, dancing, and balancing -- everything needed to wear out a two-year-old! The Estes Valley Library is a mountain gem.
I also learned about a program that is taking the toddler world by storm: 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten. Be a reader, and read to the little ones in your life!
Finally, don't forget that the High Plains Library District is currently accepting applications for the Writer in Residence program.
With apologies to Shakespeare: Get thee to a library!