Thursday, November 29, 2012

Support Your Local Library

Chef Zander prepared a great spread.
From my earliest days libraries have been part of my life. I can still picture in vivid detail the library at my elementary school in suburban Cleveland. It was small by library standards, but I loved the books there. I took one book out so many times that I believe the librarian thought something was wrong with me. I still derive pleasure from re-reading favorite books.
I don't recall whether I was in fourth or fifth grade when my mother brought me with her to the Maple Heights Public Library. I was amazed by the quantity of books, as well as the narrow aisles between the ceiling high shelves. What a world!

We moved to New Jersey in 1964, and soon learned where the Somerville Public Library was. I also remember the exact location of the dictionary in my Hillside elementary school library where I looked up the meaning of an embarrassing word that was used to make fun of me, the "new kid."

Bridgewater-Raritan High School had a campus-style layout with nine separate buildings sprawled in a large arc. The library was in a building of its own. I was then of an age where I could appreciate and hone in on a specific author's catalog of works. I remember reading Pierre Boulle's Bridge on the River Kwai, finding it so gripping that I read all of his books that were parked there, which included Planet of the Apes before it became a film.

My dad was an avid reader, seldom without a book in his hand after dinner or when visiting relatives. My grandmother, too, was a reader and collector of books. Her science fiction collection was extensive and she let me read some of those books, many of which later became films after I'd read them, including Andromeda Strain and Fantastic Voyage. In their retirement home there were book shelves in every room, and one room downstairs that contained floor-to-ceiling book shelves on all four wall, all filled to overflowing.

My Scott Quad dorm at Ohio University was one of the closest on campus to the university library, a seven-story home for seemingly infinite quantities of books and magazines.  researched everything there from the Hatfield-McCoy feud to the varieties of modern artists.

All this to say that I appreciate libraries and what they are about. I've often heard myself say, "Libraries are the one thing I don't mind paying taxes for," and I meant it.

These memories are intended as an introduction to a few comments about a very special event we attended Tuesday evening called Libations at the Library. Now personally, I love our local library here in Duluth, and am also a member on the Superior side of the bridge. Not only do they house books, patrons check take out art for their homes or offices, magazines, DVDs and audio books as well as surf the internet and just plain hang out in a warm space all day. It's all free and free for all.

The invitation for the event read, "Join us for a glittering party of wine and hors d'oeuvres in support of literacy and lifelong learning! An after hours evening of fun at the library in good company--and with books!"

Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff with Dan D'Allaird.
The good company included all members of the Duluth City Council, members of the Library Foundation Board and friends of the library. It was the first time alcohol has been served in this space, with wine and even mixed drinks. (I had the Mayor's Manhattan, which I sipped while looking at books in the 300 section upstairs.

We usually are asked to be quiet in libraries. We learn the meaning of the expression "shhhhh" there. By way of contrast, Tuesday evening was anything but quiet. Very early on the string quartet had to be moved to a location right in the midst of the party because with all the chatter we were unaware that there was live music present. 

The food service was 4-star, prepared and presented by Chef Ryan J. Zander of JJ Astor, the restaurant with a view atop the Radisson across the street. This contribution and the wine were all served from the magazine section, another of my favorite spaces here.

Eventually city councilors Dan Hartman and Linda Krug welcomed us, on behalf of the mayor who regretted his absence, and introduced Dan D'Allaird who spoke briefly about the achievements of the library these past few years, as well as the purpose of this event. Many of us were aware that library hours had been shortened for a while due to budgetary considerations, but now had been restored in all three library branches thus making the library more available and accessible. This past year the library added over 7000 new patrons as a result.

Libations at the Library was a brainchild of the Duluth Library Foundation, which was founded to help support the library and underwrite programs and support the libraries efforts to serve the community. Their current goal is to raise a million dollars to help further this mission.

One thing I learned Tuesday that I did not know before was this. When you give money to the foundation, they keep records and your cumulative giving accrues toward whatever your objectives are. That is, people who give $500 dollars become Emily Dickinson givers. This could be all at once or ten years of fifty dollar donations. The $1000-$2500 range is the Mark Twain level, etc. Evidently they want to make your giving fun, and associated with great literature.

The point of this little discourse is to encourage you, wherever you are, to support your local libraries. Libraries serve a great function in society, and taxes help lay the foundations, but opportunities exist to do much more, and many things require money. It's a great resource. Let's support it.


Sun Dog said...

Nice post.

Patra Sevastiades said...

Thank you, Ed, for such a compelling post about a wonderful event!