Posted April 9th, 2012
"Mobile", the adjective, sounds and means something different than the noun "mobile". If your brain translates words into pictures, it is the difference between witnessing a moving object and seeing a stationary cell phone in someone's hand on which they can always be reached. If you translate that into library language, it means either books being physically transported, or downloaded virtually into a digital device. In an era when you can connect and browse books on a virtual shelf in a virtual world, what does that mean for the physical world?
Let's take a trip back in time. To 1935.
The Great Depression, an Ohio River flood, starvation and joblessness plagued the unyielding landscape. Through Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration under the direction of Henry Hopkins, relief would come. Jobs were created across America that also benefitted the land, through repairing and building. “Give a man a dole,” Hopkins said, “and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit”. (A dole was a benefit paid by the government for the unemployed, like a charity.)
But there was also WPA emphasis on the arts -- through federal art, music, theater, and writers’ projects. Roosevelt referenced those who "...are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life." So, jobs were needed, yes. But also a connection to culture. Building up the land and building up morale. Saving the body and spirit.
Likewise, the Library Projects division provided books, magazines and needed educational books. Closed-down libraries were re-opened; books repaired. Bookmobiles were mobilized in rural areas, and where no vehicle could travel, pack horses were bridled and ridden through rough terrain. In our catalog, we have this lovely Juvenile Non-fiction book by detailing the trials and joys these librarians went through.
The interesting thing about it is not just the devotion these librarians had, but also what it meant. They developed relationships with those they labored to reach. People were so grateful, they would give (they didn't have much to give) family recipes or quilt patterns (some are documented in a book that is displayed in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library.)
It was the connection that was important.
Two previous bookmobile drivers for our county emphasized that driving the bookmobile was like visiting family members. And the bringing of books brought life. The need for a connection to culture and their community.
Across the nation in recent years, libraries have again experienced budget cuts. Certain programs had to be eliminated in order to keep other aspects of the library running. Even in our own county, our bookmobile no longer runs.
Yet, striving to stay connected to culture hadn't died with the discontinuation of the Works Progress Administration. These days, it is probably safe to say we are all VERY connected.
The job of a library now is to make you feel like you belong. You belong at your library (and while that is the theme for National Library Week, it is also a very true statement.) You belong because you can call it your home, your haven of knowledge, your sanctuary from the bustling outside world, your retreat where your mind is nourished. Think of it as your connection to your community and culture, right where you belong.
"A library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people. It is a never failing spring in the desert." --Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) Industrialist, Businessman, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist