By Joe McKenzie Ι Sept. 13, 2015
On a recent Friday morning, I had a meeting with a banker who was amazed at the changes in libraries and wondered what was challenging us these days. And, in that same hour, a small stringy blond haired 2-year-old girl wandered the library barefoot looking for her mother or for a familiar face. She did not talk. She did not cry. She was alone and lost.
In the year 2045, there will be a critically acclaimed bestselling book that everyone will be talking about. It will be available in every possible format. The movie rights will be snapped up immediately. It will be a good book. The library will have multiple copies and book discussions. Our work, our challenge, as a public entity whose mission is connecting people to information, learning and culture, is to help create a community that knows early literacy is important to all of us. It is critical to the brains of young children. And, it can change the future of that barefoot girl and perhaps give her a chance to be interested in reading that popular book and discussing it with friends and family when she is an adult with children of her own. Literacy matters.
One of our challenges at the public library is to bring these 2 forces – a child and a book – together, to give her a chance, to help create a better life, a stronger community. And, we know there’s hope because the barefoot kid was in the public library that morning. We found her mother and a sibling. And, we’ve had success with families in pre-school storytimes, with fun electronic resources for all ages, with community learning through CLASS, with Tech Clubs for kids, with free books in Little Libraries in city parks, with volunteers delivering books to the homes of child care providers and in so many ways.
But, it’s not as simple as books and people. It really is a caring community working together to develop opportunities to engage with each other, to share learning experiences, to understand our differences, to support and develop the lives and growing minds of young children and to celebrate our successes together. The public library is proud to be a part of that challenge.