Please pardon the quick and dirtiness of this post. I’ll get right to it.
Our library (Hagerstown – Jefferson Township Library) is finding its identity. I truly believe that part of the problem in “library land” right now is a struggle for identity. We’re trying to do it all and, in the process, we’re losing ourselves. Hmm. I think that means that libraries are going through a midlife crisis. Nothing wrong with that. It happens to everyone and everything. There’s the initial excitement and oohs and ahhs and then everything settles into a routine and then the routine becomes a rut and then you wake up one morning and wonder how you ended up here and what the point is.
So, our library is finding its identity. We’re over being all things to all people. We’re going to be the information experts in Hagerstown. Oh, just as a point of clarification. That doesn’t mean we’re going to know all the information. That means we’re going to be information shepherds and tour guides and fixers. Anyway.
A few of the things we’re doing are overhauling our summer library program (please let it work) and introducing an intensive early literacy program that incorporates Every Child Ready to Read, our extension service, and 1000 Books Before Kindergarten. Yeah, so? Exactly, but here’s the thing. It’s one thing to take prepackaged products and present them to your patrons. It’s another to adapt them so that they belong to your patrons. Make it special. Make it unique. Make it something your community can brag about and be proud of.
You see, our community has been going through a bit of an identity crisis as well. There’s been a steady loss of major manufacturing jobs in the area and a steady population decrease. There’s been a polarization between rich and poor like never before. Hagerstown NEEDS something to be proud of.
One of the benefits of being a small-town librarian is the opportunity to pull out ALL of your skills and/or talents and use them for something in the library. Well, in another life, I was into the art scene (that’s another story), and as I said, one of the things we’re going to doing in the library is the “1000 Books Before Kindergarten” program. A major component of that program is a journal where parents/grandparents/caregivers/guardians keep track of the books that they read w/ their child. Usually, this journal is a binder with a bunch of photocopied log sheets. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, why not make it something special. If this journal is something that’s documenting a major part of your child’s development, why not treat it like the keepsake it could be. To that end, part of program will be journal specifically designed to be a keepsake for the child. Let’s face it. The more special something is, the more buy-in there will be and the more likely a family will be to complete the program. Why? Because it’s special. It’s theirs. They can be proud of it.
So, I’m working on the artwork for the journal. Right now, you can see the blocked-in colors, a little bit of conceptual stuff, and some notes (I usually write in pencil on canvases so I don’t lose my train of thought). You may or may not see the central concept of the artwork which is a child and adult reading together bound within a heart. You definitely can see that it’s nowhere near done. Even so, when it is, my hope is that it will be part of a very vibrant program in Hagerstown, spearheaded by the library, to promote the family as the most important and first classroom for our children. I hope we put some pride back into education and stop relying solely on a system that we readily admit is broken. We’ll see. Here’s another step in that direction.