My Lifelong Love Affair with Libraries

From childhood to motherhood, Julie Bogart has remained true to the love of her life: the library.

Love Affair with Libraries

My first car accident occurred in the parking lot of a library. I had barely earned my driver’s license a few hours earlier. I hopped in my Mazda GLC that evening for a joyride—straight to the public library. So excited to visit the stacks inside, I hurriedly parked, misjudging the space and clipped the fender of the neighboring car. I got a tongue lashing from the owner, naturally—though the damage was insignificant.

But what stays with me more than that humiliation on what should have been a day of driving triumph is that my first choice destination when exercising my new-born 16 year old freedom, was to drive to a library. Libraries were a haven and a place of intellectual adventure in my childhood.

I remember the delicious sense of “shopping” that libraries provided. My mother took us weekly to pick books—and we were allowed to check out as many as we liked! I would examine the spines for provocative words like: “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack” and colorful book covers like Garth Williams’ illustrations for the Little House books.

In the 1970s, we still used card catalogues made of paper. It was a point of pride with me that I could navigate that system at a young age (by 10) and locate a book by its digits with decimal points. Perhaps that introduction to the secret society of proficient library users contributed to my love of research-based writing. The first time a librarian showed me how to use microfiche (slides that keep copies of newspapers, academic journals, and books from decades gone by), I felt the thrill of membership to a society of scholars.

Fast forward a few decades and it’s no wonder that I gathered my five small children, bundled them in boots and coats against the cold Ohio winters, and invaded our local library every single week. Not content to check out one or two titles per child, we brought two laundry baskets with us to cart our book hauls home. Yes, there was the time when a stack of 20 CDs went missing in our rambling house to the tune of a fine over $100.00 (one hundred dollars I didn’t have). Still, we rejoiced in spring when the CDs reappeared like tulip bulbs, having been hidden under a sectional and blanket. We were refunded our fine and the librarians, forgiving as always, reassured us that they were glad we were back.

My two oldest kids got to participate in a poetry club for junior high kids. Each week, on Wednesday nights, the library turned their meeting room into a low-lights, coffee shop atmosphere with candles and colored table cloths. A microphone stood on a platform and kids between the ages of 11 and 15 took turns reciting original poetry (a poetry slam!). After the first meeting, my kids were highly motivated to write their own poetry. Until that night, their themes had consisted of skateboarding and ballet. This time, their poetry took a dark turn. One wrote from the viewpoint of a child in a wheelchair and the other discussed the pain of losing someone to suicide. I was startled! They each told me in their own way, “I didn’t know poetry could be about hard real life things!”

And that’s just it. Libraries are this incredible gift to our communities—a place where children discover more of the world as it is, aided by research tools, friendly staff, and a wide selection of books there for the borrowing. Libraries offer read aloud storybook times for toddlers, sometimes poetry slams for teens, and book club meet ups for adults. In our increasingly digital world, it’s so nice to know that down the street, there’s a collection of people dedicated to creating a space for research and reading, for community and collaboration.

As a home educator for seventeen years, I can’t think of a place that offered us more. The library stood as a weekly highlight—a day in the week where my children felt the thrill of independent learning. They’d peruse the stacks, sample a book in their hands, lean back in a beanbag chair to start the next book in a series, and check out a pile of them, confident that they had made good intellectually stimulating decisions for themselves. Three cheers for the library! (Just be careful when you park.)

BY JULIE BOGART, March 17, 2019, first appearing on Read It Forward

 

LIBRARIES AS COMMUNITY SPACES: AN ACADEMIC AND A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

Public libraries are not just places where you can borrow books for free. Nor are they merely places where you can access the internet or use a printer. They offer those services, of course. But more than that, public libraries are community spaces; spaces designed to serve a local constituency and promote a sense of sociality. They offer classes, workshops, events, story times—plentiful opportunities for strangers to meet and social interactions to occur, as well as opportunities to learn and grow. (And for babies to learn how to properly shelve books; see below).

Baby

This is one way of understanding libraries as a community space. It is perhaps the most common way, and in professional library discourse and popular media this is how the library as a community space is presented—as a kind of social hub or ‘third space’, one of those valuable and increasingly rare spaces that belong to the community where anyone can hang out for free. The books are a bonus.

There is another way of understanding libraries as a community space, however. This other way has a more academic bent to it, and draws on ideas from social history, sociology, and cultural research, and sees the library as one part of a wider form of liberal governmentality. Simply, the liberal governmentality refers to a governing authority shaping citizens so that they could be self-regulating individuals; you don’t need a government watching and telling people what to do if the people themselves knew what to do and would watch out for each other. There are various instruments and agencies that can be used for this kind of rule, organisations and people involved in this regulation of behaviour and conduct in everyday life. These include churches, lawyers, doctors, schools, and public leisure facilities like municipal swimming pools. And, of course, libraries.  ‘Community’, seen through this lens, can be understood as something that a governing authority may try to use to develop social cohesiveness and a self-regulating group of citizens.

Through the liberal governmentality lens, the library can be understood as an instrument of the local municipality, particularly in its role in the community. The workshops, classes, and story times that are offered by libraries act as tools to guide and influence a population. These events allow for social interactions and potential relationships forming between neighbours, provide ways for the governing authority to connect with its constituency in a positive way, and contribute to the lifelong learning of the populace. The library is a way to gently guide a population and create a community of free, educated, self-regulating individuals.

These musings of the library as community space occupied my mind for the better part of four years as I completed my PhD. I entered libraries as a researcher, attended events and walked around the space with the critical eye of an academic. I questioned why things were the way they were, and blended what I was seeing and hearing with what I was reading in academic texts. Now it has been five years since completing the fieldwork component of my research, two years since I submitted the thesis, and one year since I graduated. I still go to the library a lot, and I will always look at a new library with the eyes of a researcher, but in my everyday life I have a new experience of the library as a community space.

In my new life as a stay-at-home mum, the library is where I go a few times a week with my baby daughter. We go there for baby story time, to borrow books, to enjoy the air conditioning, and to play with their toys and crawl around the relatively safe space. Once a week, baby story time means that someone else is entertaining my baby for half an hour. The toys they have are safe and fun and, most importantly, different to the toys that we have at home and so are therefore that much better. The children’s area is a much bigger space than our living room, so there is more room for my baby to crawl around (and thereby wear herself out).

I have also met other mums and caregivers at the library, both at story time and when we go just to hang out and play in the children’s area. It is refreshing to meet other people who can form complete sentences and have adult conversations, and sometimes if all you do is look after a baby all day, real conversations can be sorely lacking. Social interaction and being around other people is healthy and wonderful, and the library is a place where this can happen freely and openly.

The idea of ‘library as a community space’ has taken on a much more personal meaning. While I still appreciate the professional and academic perspectives of libraries as community spaces, this new way of seeing and using the library has been the most powerful. My twice-weekly trips to the library reveal to me not simply the role of the library as a community hub or a governmental instrument. This is the library as a saviour.

By , September 

Beware the IDES (Job Fair) of March!

… And by “Beware” we mean “Attend”.

job fair

Visit with employers who are hiring. Participants are encouraged to bring resumes and dress appropriately for an interview.

Employers scheduled to attend include, but may not be limited to:

  • Mediacom
  • ARC of the Quad Cities area
  • Cintas Corporation
  • AT&T
  • Miller Container
  • AUSP Thomson Prison
  • Schneider National Trucking
  • Volt Workforce Solutions
  • Tyson Fresh Meats
  • Elliott Aviation
  • Illinois State Police
  • UPS—United Parcel Service
  • Illinois DOC—Dept. of Corrections
  • Iowa 80 Group
  • Modern Woodmen

Thinking about US Citizenship but worried about the test?

Citizenship Class

This free 8 week course series meets every Wednesday from 6pm until 7:30pm beginning March 13th until May 1st. This course is open to anyone wanting to prepare for the United States citizenship test.

You must have basic English language skills.

Registration is required, as space is limited.

Valentine’s Day Ditto, Just for You!

And all the other people who read this blog post…

If Not For You Shelf End Ditto NU

Learn Your Library Resources (and Services) – Voter Registration

Image result for voter registration

That’s right. The Moline Public Library provides voter registration during most hours of operation. Since our voter registrars are sometimes busy with other library duties it isn’t a bad idea to call ahead at 524-2450 to inquire whether a registrar will be available.

What Do You Need to Register?
You may register to vote at the Moline Public Library under the following guidelines:

  1. You must live in Rock Island County
  2. You must be able to show 2 (two) forms of identification, 1 (one) indicating your current address
  3. You must be a resident at your current address at least 28 days before any election

Not sure if you’re registered?  You can find out by performing a Registration Lookup through the Illinois State Board of Elections web site.

When You Can Register?
Voter registration closes 28 days before an election and opens 3 days after an election.

And now, new residents/citizens/legal adults and the friends and family members of said individuals, you know where to go (or where to send them) if you (they) would like to register to vote in the next round of elections!

On a related note, the library is also a frequent location for early voting, so once you’re registered be on the lookout for an opportunity to beat the lines on election day by coming to the library to vote early!