” Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll be strong, but it’s really hard to say so long! I wish you didn’t have to go…but for each goodbye…there’s a new hello.”
This book popped into my head this afternoon. I went over to the shelf and took it out and read it. It’s one of my favorite books because it takes something hard, like saying goodbye, and makes it fun. In the end, we get the message that life moves on, things change, new challenges arise.
This is appropriate for me now because I am leaving my beloved post at my library. I’d like to take a second and write a note to my patrons, 99.9% of whom will never read this post, but I want to write it.
I will be leaving my place as a Children’s Librarian and moving on to do some work that I consider to be very important, spending more time being a Mommy. That doesn’t mean I think everyone should do what I’m doing. In fact, I have a great deal of respect and awe for the billions of parents who work full-time. This is what was right for me and my family, for me to work less and be home more. I am beyond excited about this move. I can’t wait to spend more time with my daughter! However, like all goodbyes, it’s a little bittersweet. Before I go, I just wanted you to know some things.
I have loved every second of working with the children at my library. They have affected me in ways that I could not have imagined 5 1/2 years ago, when I walked through these doors in my green (literally, they were green, but also figuratively, 2 weeks shy of graduating from grad school) shoes. I was given the opportunity to start my professional career at one of the best libraries I have ever encountered. It has truly been a privilege to serve this community, and it’s not one I ever took lightly.
That’s why I want you to know the value of your tax dollars. The very fact that it makes me sad to leave the patrons of this library (not to mention the staff!) should tell you a lot about what happens in a public library. It should make you think twice about not wanting to support your own public library. This community has become like an extended family where we share recipes, and books, and funny stories. It’s a place where little children have come running through the doors screaming, “MS SARA! MS SARA! I POOPIED ON THE POTTY!” Now, tell me this; if this was just a building that housed books, would your children really want to share their biggest news with us?
I’ll tell you why you should support your library. It’s not just about facts, or numbers, or literacy or getting value for tax dollars. It’s something immeasurable. It’s about a community. I can’t speak for your library, but the staff of this library isn’t here to just give you information, access to materials both educational and entertaining, but actually cares about meeting your needs, whatever they are. Whether you have an energetic 3-year-old that cannot sit still in a regular story time, are struggling with a disease in your family, need to print your credit report, want to learn how to send an email, help applying for a job and much more, Librarians are there to help you. I have spent the last 5 1/2 years watching the staff of this library selflessly accomplish tasks for people that are not part of their job, that are not part of library policy, that have nothing to do with books, movies, or cds, but have more to do with supporting people on their journey through life .
That’s why I became I librarian. I saw this unique opportunity to be in a building, in a community, where people came when they didn’t know where else to go. I don’t know about your experiences, but my experiences in this library have taught me that Librarians are “yes” people. Can you address this envelope for me? yes. Can you help me find a homeless shelter?yes. Can you teach me how to work this newfangled device? yes. Can you fax this? yes. Can you get me this rare book? yes. Can you read me the basic principles of Scientology over the phone? yes. (I actually had that question). Can you listen to endless stories about my struggles? yes.Can you love my children? yes. The Librarians I have worked with here, and elsewhere have taught me more about the kind of person I want to be (and sometimes the kind of person I don’t want to be) than they have taught me about information literacy.
It’s not just the Librarians that have taught me so much, but it’s the patrons, too. I have watched many people in this community overhear a conversation and stand up, walk over, and extend a hand to solve a problem. I have watched children grow up, seen a community mourn icons, and watched them come together to dance the “Tooty Ta” in story time. I’ve seen seasoned moms take new moms under their wings and relieve the stress (and sometimes terror) they are feeling, right there in the back of my story time. For every incident that makes me afraid of the world Baby E will grow up in, I have seen interactions in this building that have brought me peace about humanity. This is priceless.
I want you to know that a library like this cannot exist (or keep existing), if the community does not rise up and support it. It doesn’t matter that you can buy books on your kindle from your couch. It’s true that some people cannot do that. It’s more true that people need this building. Ask the group of senior citizens that sit in the Reading Room near my desk and discuss politics, weather, grandchildren, and then support each other through loss of spouses, sickness, and struggle. Ask that Mom with the three-year-old that can’t sit still and isn’t welcomed to play anywhere else. Ask the family that can’t afford the internet, or a computer, or a printer for their children to do homework at home. Ask the parents who didn’t go to college or don’t speak English who have to navigate the education system on their own. Ask the families in my story times. They will tell you that this building is essential. If you want to keep this place, full of “yes” people, then you should be doing whatever you can to support it. That might mean you have to open your pocketbook, pay your fines (or just stop stealing our stuff and taking your library books to the beach and bringing them back full of sand), write a letter to your congressman, make a donation, or maybe just be friendly when there’s a policy you don’t like.
For me, I’m not leaving the library world entirely, while I am taking a break from Children’s Services. I will always be a Librarian and I will always be a library user and supporter.
However, “Oh no! It’s time to go!” is relevant for me. It’s time for me to move on to a different type of adventure, with my own children. I hope this venture has been a successful one for me. I hope I did my very best every minute I could. I hope I’m leaving something behind here in this building where I got my start because I am taking so, so much with me. I hope every single child that I have met in this building has known how much I never took sitting in this seat for granted. I knew that the right book, the much-needed answer, the opening of a door to information, the right smile, the right encouraging word, the when possible “yes,” the well placed “no” could make a huge difference. If there are places I have failed, days I was too grumpy, tired, or self-involved to be what I knew I should, (and I know there were those days) I will regret them. I’m very grateful to have been made part of many children’s lives. I’m grateful for the quiet moments with small children, the hugs, the laughter and fun. I’m grateful for learning from some of the most compassionate, dedicated, intelligent and fun Librarians and Library Assistants in the world. I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned from those who work with me. I’m grateful for the difficult moments where my patience was tested, cleaning up vomit, and dealing with difficult patrons. Those moments taught me about where I fall short and inspired me to handle situations differently.
This goodbye is sad for me in some ways because I know that I will not see some of these children grow up into the talented, energetic, intelligent, and creative adults I know they will be. Mostly, it’s a happy goodbye, because of what I am going to do, for the new hellos that will happen for the patrons here, and, for me.
Maybe I’m just being super sentimental and over dramatic and I have romanticized the impact of the public library in a community. If that’s the case, it’s a good thing nobody ever reads this blog.
More good books about goodbyes:
Aliki. Hello, Goodbye.
Chwast, Seymour. Goodbye, Hello: Everything Your Family Needs to Know When You Move
Henkes, Kevin. Wemberly Worried.
Juster, Norton. The Hello Goodbye Window.
Penn, Audrey. The Kissing Hand.
Waber, Bernard. Ira Says Goodbye.