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Why I Love Libraries (and Librarians)

Parkway mom talks about libraries and all they offer to children, families and the community.

When my children were younger, we often visited the West Roxbury and Roslindale branches of the Boston Public Library and the Putterham branch of the Brookline Public Library. We are fortunate to live within walking distance of all three (Putterham is the farthest, 1.5-mile each way). We’d go for weekly story hour, the occasional holiday craft project, and for special activities like sing-a-longs and movies.

As a parent of young children, I found visiting the library a great way to meet other families in the area. By attending story hour week after week, you are bound to get to know some of the kids and parents, which can lead to play dates, friendships and beyond.

Like most parents, we had a collection of board books and old standbys at home, which we read over and over again. However, discovering new books at each library visit — and being able to bring them home with us — was a little bit like magic. Each of my kids was thrilled to carry home an armful of new books, things they picked out themselves, or sometimes with help from the children’s librarian, who’d help us find just the right book on princesses, monster trucks, Halloween costumes or whatever the kids were “into” at that time, or point out the newest Eric Carle book to us.

We often translated our library experiences into important lessons about caring for library property — no eating or drinking while reading the library books, no drawing on pages, no ripping pages, etc. We had to take good care of the library books — and not lose them — so we could continue to borrow them, which we so loved to do!

Even returning the books was a fun thing to do together. Putting the books in the special after hours slot or up on the return area was always fun and made us feel proud of all we’d read. And the due dates helped me teach my kids something about responsibility and doing things on time. We’d keep track of our library books, keeping them all on one shelf, and did our best to stick to due dates in order to avoid late fines.

As the kids get older, the libraries we frequent began to serve different purposes for us. We don’t go for story time or sing-a-longs anymore, but we do go to get help identifying books at appropriate reading levels, and for help with research projects for school.

The cool thing? The librarians were with us every step of the way. Through the years, they helped us find books fitting the exact reading stage and interest levels each child was at as they moved up grades.   

My kids loved going to the library as toddlers, and they still do today — at ages 9 and 12. Many of the librarians in the library near their school know them by name, even though they see hundreds of kids pass through every day. 

Librarians are amazing resources as well. If your child has a research paper and is having trouble getting started, consider suggesting they meet with their school or local librarian to help them get started. The librarian may be able to point the way to groupings of books that are just what your child needs. They will help them learn how libraries are organized, how to find the call number of the books they need and then the actual book in the stacks. The Dewey Decimal system is pretty cool, once you understand how to use it.

Libraries are wonderful resources for patrons young and old. They are places to get information about almost every subject under the sun. Taxes, law, learning English, it is likely your library offers programs on all of these topics (and more) or can direct you to resources in your community. Books, newspapers, journals, maps, magazines, dvd's, cd's...pretty likely your library has all of these.

And if by chance the library does not have something you need, they can usually find it for you and may even be able to arrange an inter-library loan for you, bringing the very book you need right to your local branch.  

And librarians? Forget the stereotype of silver-haired, bespectacled, “shushing” librarian. Librarians are cool people. They have a wealth of knowledge and can help you find exactly what you need, and usually pretty quickly, too. Be respectful and kind and they’ll treat you the same way. 

Did I mention libraries can help you save money, too? Rather than buying the best-seller your neighbor just told you about, borrow it from the library.  There may be a bit of a wait for the hottest titles, but a librarian can probably help you find an older title by the same author right on the shelf in the meantime.

And don’t forget your library can help with art and culture, too. Many offer author readings and art shows, while others offer movie events, lectures, concerts and plays. Some even have passes to museums and attractions available for loan.

Enjoy your library! 

MY LIBRARY by Varda One

It's only a room with shelves and books, 

but it's far more magical than it looks

It's a jet on which I soar 

to lands that exist no more.

Or a key with which I find 

answers to questions crowding my mind.

Building my habit of learning and growing, 

asking and researching till I reach knowing.

Here, I've been a mermaid and an elf 

I've even learned to be more myself.

I think that I shall never see 

a place that's been more useful to me.

With encouraging kind friends with wit 

Who tell me to dream big and never quit.

It's only a room with shelves and books, 

but it's far more magical than it looks.

 

About the West Roxbury Library (from their website):

RECURRING PROGRAMMING OFFERED

Preschool story hours for children. A book discussion groups for adults. Teens can volunteer to be Homework Mentors in the Homework Assistance Program. Monthly exhibits by local artists are held in our art gallery. The annual intergenerational poetry contest takes place in the spring. A drop-in knitting program meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month and is open to all ages and Caps for Kids donations provide warm hats for Boston-area children.

SPECIAL PROGRAMMING OFFERED

Lecture programs are typically offered in the fall or spring focusing on topics of local interest including local history. West Roxbury Reads is held every other year and is sponsored by the Friends and other local agencies, working together with library staff to focus on a particular book. Summer reading programs are offered for children. Book readings by local authors.

Click here for information on hours, special events, homework help and more.

Steve Hurl October 04, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Libraries are usually great. I guess my experience as a middle-aged male at the Roslindale branch should not be compared to the standard experience of families visiting W. Rox. I thought Roslindale was under-staffed, the librarians dour and a little surly, and the clientele was mostly folks too poor to own a computer at home. I had some problem with my library card that no one could explain to me, but they didn't have the book I needed anyway, so, moot point, except I spent 20 min. looking / waiting for help. Maybe it's the neighborhood, but Roslindale Village is pretty cool, so why can't they get that branch in gear?
Anna Rubin October 04, 2011 at 01:41 PM
Hi Steve. You bring up an interesting point. Every library has its own flavor and every user has different experiences. If you can, try another branch. Another option is to contact Community Services & Branch Manager, Christine Schonhart at 617-859-2340 or cschonhart@bpl.org , to expressing your concerns and experiences. I'm sure she would want to know.
Dolores Burton October 07, 2011 at 11:14 AM
Hi Steve, Roslindale Friends have been very supportive of the video lecture series showing at the West Roxbury branch. On Monday, Oct. 24, at 6 p.m., you can view a lecture on "Dark Matter, Dark Energy" given by Prof. Mark Whittle of the U. of Virginia, then join a live discussion led by Prof. David Forsyth of Northeastern. We'd love to have you join us. Dolores Burton

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