Yesterday I spent a fun couple of hours at the Library where I work playing with Lego. Well I say fun but most of it sucked because I am terrible at Lego. It wasn’t until I found a step by step tutorial on Youtube that I finally began to enjoy myself. In this sort of situation I need to be instructed, told which kind of brick to put where.
The whole reason I was playing with the stuff was because it’s my turn to run the Lego Club next week and it’s kind of annoying when the kids are all making incredible objet d’art and I can only manage things that are square or rectangular – last week I made the border of a garden then gave up when I didn’t understand how to fit a gate, whilst the eight year old beside me constructed the ground floor of his house replete with white goods and soft furnishings.
Frustration and incompetence aside the Lego Club is one of our most popular activities but does it really belong in a library? I chose to work in a library because I love books. The reality of it is that, in order to keep libraries open, you have to love various other things too (well, maybe not love, maybe get to grips with is a better phrase)
In my job, as well as the book related stuff, I take applications for concessionary travel passes, help people get online, issue public transport and tourist information, take police enquiries, facilitate various kids and adult activities (sometimes with a strong book theme, sometimes tenuous, and sometimes not at all) and signpost people to local services. I’d love to just talk books with the people who come through our door, but sadly those days are long gone.
But is sad the right word to use? Maybe not. In our increasingly fragmented societies the existence of a place that people can visit without any expectations of them, is in itself something to be celebrated. You are welcome through our doors and, other than reasonable behaviour of course, we won’t expect anything of you. You don’t even have to whisper! Borrow a book, or not. Engage with us, or not – we love to chat to our customers, but we are also happy to let you be. Stay as long as you want, five minutes or all day, and it won’t cost you a penny. I can’t think of another place as enticing as that!
So, as I sit amongst the eight year old’s constructing another Lego disaster I will remind myself that Libraries exist to service the communities they are a part of. As our communities evolve we have to evolve with them. I don’t think our communities have ever needed libraries more and we must by any means possible remind people of two important facts:
- We are here
- We are here for you
We will always have books. I will always have books. Libraries will always have books. What we need more of is space to breathe, to take a time out from the insane whirlwind of modern life. Somewhere to go where we can be alone. Somewhere we can go to be amongst people who want nothing from you. Time out. Time out of time.
If Lego is a tool to get people who have forgotten us or who are unaware of our services, through the door then I’ll happily humiliate myself before the child gods of Lego.
My humble Lego attempt- after following step by step idiot guide!