It’s about the books

A few years ago, a colleague of mine was talking about libraries in general, and the one she worked at in particular. She said the advent of the Internet and of libraries loaning DVDs and music CDs had driven her to make a sampler for her office, upon which was inscribed this motto: “It’s about the books, stupid.”
For librarians who grew up in the 50s and 60s, as I did, this has a certain resonance. I remember crawling up flights of intimidating stairs to sit at the feet of the “library lady” for storytime. I remember being shushed by the formidable gentleman whose only purpose in life seemed to be to keep those of us in the after-school library crowd quiet. Though much has changed, and libraries today are about so much more than books, one of our core services remains to make books available in a variety of formats to meet your needs.
For several weeks I have been meeting with a steering committee for a new book discussion group forming in Chatham this fall. The first series will center on the theme, “Good Jobs, Good Work.” Author Jim Wallis, in his book Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street, points out that we need to focus on the quality of work as well as the quantity of jobs. He says, “This recession offers us the opportunity to look at that deeper question: work as well as jobs. People need good jobs, but people also need good work. . . . work that promotes human dignity and respect. Preparing for these discussions has led me to new works such as Shop Class as Soulcraft by fellow Virginian Matthew Crawford, as well as back to old favorites such as the essays of Wendell Berry.
Often when people interview for a job with us, they say, “I want to work for the library because I love to read.” This is always met with wry smiles from our interview team, simply because one of the things we rarely get to do on the job is read. And yet, the experience of reading authors old and new brings great joy. It reminds me that I, too, became a librarian in part because I love to read. It reminds me that, despite all the myriad things I love about my job, and about libraries, it does boil down to this: It’s about the books.

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