Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reading Between the Lines

It’s National Library Week! 

Ten years ago, Wisconsin librarians were celebrating saving Wisconsin’s (then) 130-year-old requirement that public libraries make their services available to the general public at no cost.  The budget repair bill that nixed Governor McCallum's proposed elimination of the free public library requirement also reduced across-the-board budget cuts to state library aids from 5% to 2.5%. 

Former Senator Roger Breske, who represented the the 12th District from 1990 to 2008, was a key supporter in that fight and many others on behalf of library services.  His sudden death last Monday at age 73 was a loss to the library community. We could always count on him.  Roger appreciated the value of education and lifelong learning and left a legacy of gregarious personal service to his constituents.  His no-pretense, zero-posturing approach to his job and easy laugh will be missed.   

It was fitting that the first 2012 meeting of the Wisconsin Valley Library Service Library Advisory Committee would be held this week Tuesday.  The LAC is made up of public, school, academic and special librarians.  Its focus is to foster cooperation and communication among all WVLS libraries by suggesting and promoting multi-type activities to WVLS staff and trustees.  WVLS is the only Wisconsin public library system that has approached its mission from a multi-type perspective from the start.  

National Library Week is a good time to answer the question, “Why does a community need to support different types of libraries?” 

Public school libraries purchase materials to support the curriculum of their particular district. They are on the spot whenever teachers and students need them, providing equal access to all information resources. 

This is especially important in rural districts where so many girls and boys must depend upon adults for transportation to the public library. 

Students living in a technical college district or UW-System campus community have a similar need for on-site libraries supporting their coursework. Some academic libraries such as the Richard J. Brown Library at Nicolet Area Technical College grant borrowing rights to community residents instead of restricting access to students.

Corporate and hospital libraries contain collections of information on particular subject areas. The employees, clients or patients who use these libraries need ready access to technical periodicals, reference materials and other sources that are often too specialized or expensive to be included in libraries serving the general public. 

Special libraries such as the one maintained by the Marathon County Historical Society organize and carefully preserve artifacts from the past in a way that most public libraries cannot provide for archival storage and space.

A public library’s overall mission is more generic. It serves the recreational reading and information needs of all persons in the community, regardless of their age, educational background or interest focus.

All types of libraries work together to serve a community. For example, school and public libraries both teach children that learning is a lifetime process and reading is fun. Both formal and informal adult education is accomplished through use of college and public libraries. Special libraries are added to the mix through referral and inter-library loan.

Sometimes potential library customers simply pick the library with the easiest access. Many years ago my friend Shirley, a library media assistant at Pelican Elementary School just outside of Rhinelander, was surprised to see a rather large chicken come strolling into her media center one afternoon.

Stretching a wing in the direction of the shelves, the chicken asked, “Buk?”

Shirley had considerable experience translating reference questions from kidspeak to English.  She deduced that the bird wanted a book and assisted her with selection. The chicken left with one volume under her wing, only to return a short time later asking for two more (“Buk! Buk!”).

After the third such visit and request (“Buk! Buk! Buk!”) Shirley was consumed by curiosity.  She followed the chicken out of the school, across the road and into the weeds. There sat a fat green frog with the three books from the first two chicken deliveries spread out around him.

As the chicken offered the most recently borrowed books one by one, the frog examined each in turn, shook his head and announced sadly he had already “Read it! Read! Read it!”

In a classic display of inter-library loan cooperation, Shirley explained to the chicken and frog that the Rhinelander District Library had a much larger collection than Pelican School and sent them downtown. The public librarians, in turn, referred the pair to the Nicolet College Library. Once on campus, the frog decided to earn an Associate of Science Degree with natural resources emphasis and the chicken survived a course in culinary arts.

(Are you laughing, Roger?)

Happy Library Week! 

No comments:

Post a Comment