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Ricker: The softer side of libraries

Community Voice

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013 5:00 a.m. CDT

The little boy's cries preceded him, so when he and his mom walked from Youth Services to Circulation, library staff asked, "Is he okay?"

The boy answered with a wail, "I don't want to leave the library!"

Although most visitors are less dramatic, many feel the same way. Why is that?

Regular library users will have many reasons, among them access to books, databases and DVDs. An equally important motive is one patrons may not even realize consciously: The softer side of libraries.

In many communities, public libraries serve as a 21st century village square. They are places where people plan to meet each other and bump into friends they haven't seen for a while. Libraries have knowledgeable, dedicated staff who know the members and can help with their needs. These are real people, not machines or bots! They have also high-touch programs designed to meet local interests, from silk-screening to carving turkeys.

Amenities vary from library to library, but they're there to nourish the body and spirit. At the Thomas Ford Memorial Library, members and guests can get a lift as soon as they enter and see fresh flowers from the Western Springs Garden Club. Gourmet beverages are nearby, even hot chocolate for a cold day. There are wonderful exhibits for children and adults, like creations from the library's Knitting Circle. In the Quiet Reading Room, there's a gas-burning fireplace, comfy chairs and the peace that allows residents a chance to think (and, in least one case, write a book). Youth Services has many hands-on features for children including an "All Aboard!" Reading Train – very possibly why the little boy did not want to leave the library.

If this sounds familiar, you're a regular library user who values your tax dollars at work. If it sounds new to you, stop by your local library or visit a new one and experience the softer side of libraries.

Christine Ricker is the public relations representative for the Thomas Ford Memorial Library

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