September 21, 2010: @ the library
Thirty three years ago, right about now, I started work at the Radford Public Library. The library was housed in a crowded room in the old Rec Hall, books piled on top of books in less than two thousand square feet of dedicated library space. I was told that people in Radford were hoping for, were wishing for, were working for a new library building. It was September, 1977. I was just 25 years old and joined a library staff of three other people.
Who knows where the time goes? The library was built, a children’s area was added, and last year a final addition with space for teenagers and a local history room was built. For me, babies were born, children were raised and educated, adult children left home, my own as well as a generation of Radfordians. Many books were purchased, several versions of audiobooks were introduced, videotapes came and went. Computers became part of library work, then a big part. A large number of library employees came and went, too, but a good number came and stayed. Several others went on to library careers of their own.
When I was a young librarian, I used to say that three things made up the whole of a good public library, in just this order:
- A cheerful, well-trained staff with a good outlook on the job, people who read books and loved books.
- A wonderful collection of material, the best that local tax support would allow, with the books people ask for, books for people to discover, new books on subjects of interest, beautiful copies of the classics.
- A library building that accommodates all the uses the community might make of the library.
Over time, though, I have found that the best day at the public library involves the public. It’s the interaction between the people, the staff, the books, and the building that makes the library a special place. Almost any hour this library is open, you can find people of all ages and all walks of life using the resources we provide. It’s a heartwarming sight.
I won’t lie to you: every day hasn’t been all roses. There were days when all the constituent groups were hard to satisfy, when it felt like folks were just looking for something to complain about, when the funding was cut, when an employee was disgruntled, you get the picture. But those days pale as I head for the exit. It’s been a great run, and I’ve enjoyed far more of it than anyone should expect from their life’s work. I’m proud of the work I’ve done here, proud of the library staff I’ve had the honor of working with, proud of the library that has grown during those three decades. I’m pleased to have been one of the people, as my dentist once said, who turns on the lights in the morning.
I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks, Radford. Thanks to everyone who’s used the library, and thanks to everyone who’s left a kind retirement message for me, including the anonymous well wisher who just left me a dollar bill for my retirement fund. I’ve loved being your librarian.