Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Right to Libraries - By Michelle Libby

To celebrate National Library Week, the Windham Public Library celebrated with a gathering featuring speeches by a local author and a local illustrator, as well as Town Manager Tony Plante and town councilor Donna Chapman, and also unveiled the new logo and library cards that went into effect at 4 p.m. on Monday. 
Maine State Librarian Linda Lord was on hand for the festivities. “Libraries are busier than ever,” she said, dispelling the idea that Kindles and other electronic book reading devices are making libraries obsolete. When she spoke to the audience, she gave examples of the value libraries have for people who need to be connected, get a job and need resources. One woman she said had never done a resume, applied for a job, but she knew to go to her public library to ask for help from people who could help. A video producer from mid-coast Maine often sat outside his public library for the broadband Internet service that enabled him to email his documentaries faster than he could from home. The final story happened in Rockport. A bride in full wedding regalia ran into the library asking for Internet access. She had forgotten her vows and needed to get into her email to retrieve them. 

“This is not the future of libraries…I’m describing what Maine libraries are doing today,” she said.
Photo -Virginia March, 9, and Tyler Miller, 10, sign the Libraries Change Lives - Declaration for the Right to Libraries.
With over 100 people in the library, library director Jen Leo told about her introduction to libraries at an early age. 

State Librarian Linda Lord
“They showed me a love of reading and a love of libraries. I found a home in libraries,” she said, naming the Riverton Library as her favorite growing up. “I know the importance of libraries for the next generation,” she added. 

Maine author Julia Spencer-Fleming spoke to the gathering about the constant in her life – libraries. “Post to post, state to state, country to country, the first thing we’d do is get a library card,” she said. As a military child she bounced from place to place. “But the little house was still on the prairie…These are my friends who were always with me,” Spencer-Fleming said. 

Windham Library director Jen Leo
She was 7 years old when she got her first library card. “I don’t think I was prouder when I got my driver’s license,” she said.     

“No one can keep up with a voracious reader without a library,” she added. “It never occurred to me that there are people behind those books – people who live in your community.” She said she wouldn’t be surprised to see that some of the library users of today will grow up to write the books that people in our community love to read in the future. 

Author Julia Spencer-Fleming
Maine illustrator Kevin Hawkes, illustrator to many books, including “Chicken Cheeks”, told the story of his mother’s life on a farm in Utah, many miles from the library, where the limit was one book checked out at a time. She wrote a handwritten letter to a Salt Lake City library because she’d heard that larger libraries were discarding books. She asked for those books. 

She forgot about the letter and at the end of June, the mailman pulled up to the front yard with a refrigerator-sized box in the back of his truck. He hefted the box out and inside were dozens and dozens of books all for her. “She lived off those books,” he said.  

Tony Plante suggested that everyone read a copy of “A Country without Libraries”, a pamphlet that “speaks volumes about libraries in our community.” 

After the speeches, everyone was invited to sign the declaration and then were told they could use their old library card to get a new card featuring the new logo. The logo designed by Leo and a friend of hers, does not mention specific services, but does point out what a library is and can do for anyone.

Illustrator Kevin Hawkes

Town manager Tony Plante

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