Life

At the Library: Serving with a dedicated board

I am in my second term as a library board trustee. However, my experiences with libraries began long before serving as a rural representative trustee.

My earliest experience with a library is with my fourth grade classroom library. On some certain day before school, I checked out a reading book from our classroom librarian, ‘Susan’. As class began, the teacher started a presentation on some particularly difficult math procedure. I began to read my book. Shortly after the math lesson, I returned my book to Susan who promptly told the teacher I had just checked the book out before school and ‘she’ didn’t see how I could have read it. I explained how I did, in fact, read it. Where upon the teacher hearing no humor, checked my worksheet and discovered I had missed 9 out of the 10 problems because clearly I hadn’t paid attention. Thus, began one of many trips to timeout into the cloakroom, a love of books, and a distain for all things math—not to mention student librarians named Susan.

My second memorable library experience is during high school study hall which was housed in the library. There I learned some librarians have little use for teenage boys passing ‘you stink notes’ back and forth. Luckily, the librarian did not possess the Harry Potter’s headmistress’ ability with the dreaded pen and so I have no scars from writing I will not pass notes in study hall.

Fortunately, there is a positive uptick in my library experiences as I left high school, joined the Army and was assigned to a tour of duty in Germany as an Armor Intelligence Specialist—which is a fancy set of words for ‘scout’, a term which my children find quite amusing given my ability to get lost on many of our family outings—but I digress. Regardless, I went to German language school and during the evenings, I would go to the post library to study German. One evening the librarian came to me and asked if I would like to hear some music while I studied. She then played a recording of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words and I was introduced to classical music for the first time in my life and for what would become a life long love of music. On some other evening, she played Debussy’s Clair de Lune and I heard the most beautiful piece of music ever written.

After the Army and then college, I began my teaching as a secondary language arts teacher and part time librarian in Bisbee, AZ. Due to my lack of math skills, I am reasonably sure I never consistently shelved the books according to the Dewey Decimal system but the most memorable part to the assignment was during a called in bomb threat, I was told to ‘look around the library for any suspicious boxes’; there were none and the threat had been made by a student who wanted the day off. Of course, law enforcement found no humor in the call. Upon moving back to Iowa, I found the high school library an invaluable source to aid in my teaching of term papers—an assignment I have asked my students to forgive me for compelling them to do as though the assignment had a meaning.

Now, I am a trustee. Here, when I enter the library, I am greeted warmly by a competent caring staff. Likewise, I serve with a very dedicated board of trustees who are concerned about making the library an inviting and viable place for our patrons. They, incidentally, have also discovered I have a particular weakness for snickerdoodles. But be that as it may, I am so pleased that I was part of the Board when we were able hire the ‘bestest’ new Library Director. And lastly, I must recommend two books to you ; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince and secondly, perhaps the greatest novel ever written, Joseph Conrad’s, The Heart of Darkness. And so it goes.