From the Director - May/June 2013
A smart lady I know with two beautiful and equally smart little boys, stopped me in the grocery store and asked how things were going at the library. I replied, as I always do, that I have the best job in the best library system and that things were terrific. “Oh good,” she said, furrowing her brow, tilting her head and looking very concerned. “Someone told me that libraries wouldn’t be around in the future and I didn’t want to believe it. I can’t imagine life without libraries.”
As I finished shopping, I tried to imagine our community without libraries—an empty parking lot and boarded up windows at Cooper, the new Eastover location halted, mid-construction, and our beautiful downtown library, still and quiet, emptied of its books, computers and people. I roamed the aisles and let my mind erase all 11 locations. With the buildings gone, I tried to imagine what life would be like without us.
I imagined the nearly 2,000 children from rural South Carolina who recently took a field trip to the Children’s Room. Their eyes wide and jaws slack, they explored the more than 160,000 books before them. These children were just starting to understand the worlds they could visit beyond their hometown, the things they could know, just by reading. Who would make sure these children had access to free books?
I wondered who would have helped Stacey and her husband, when they followed a job prospect to Columbia that ended unexpectedly after just two months. Their meager resources not enough to sustain them they found themselves in a temporary shelter. Stacey sought help from our Business and Job Center, and with the assistance and the encouragement of staff got a new job.
As I drove home, I thought of the countless times when the library has been there for people who need us. How we’ve been there for you, your family, friends and neighbors—the people who make our community and our country strong and vibrant. If you take these stories and multiply them by the more than 2 million visitors the Richland Library welcomes each year and then multiply that by the number of libraries and their visitors all over the country, that’s powerful stuff.
Thinking back to my grocery store encounter, I wish I had memorized and shared author Bill Peschel’s quote with my friend in response to her concerns: “Libraries are society’s workhorses, making available what is good and worthy and open to all who need information, reassurance or a kick in the imagination. A town without a library is irredeemably impoverished.” Wish I could have recited that right there in the cereal aisle.
But instead here’s how I responded:
Smart friend: “I can’t imagine life without libraries.”
Me: “Don’t worry. We’ll be here.”
Melanie Huggins | Executive Director
I just finished: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon
I’m just starting: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I can’t stop listening to: Charmer by Aimee Mann
You don’t want to miss: Echoes of Africa at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 1 at Richland Library Sandhills