Great libraries build communities

By Ryan Johnson, Assistant Director

I recently came across a quote attributed to R. David Lankes, a prominent scholar, speaker and advocate in the library-world.  That quote reads, “Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.”

I like to think we fall into that great category.

On any given day you can observe community taking place at the library.  Neighbors bump into each other and strike up a conversation while making copies.  Parents chat and build connections while their children play and develop those important socialization skills.  New friendships are made in a yoga class.  Classmates attend a study group.  And so on.

Sure, we spend a good amount of time and effort building our collections and services.  Those things are easier to track and easier to market.  How many books were checked out over a given time?  How many people attended an event?  It’s harder to measure community.  It’s an intangible thing.  It’s also hard to measure the impact we have in our community.  

Occasionally we’ll hear from someone we helped with a job application, thanking us after they were hired.  Or a new volunteer will come in, wanting to give back because the library was so important to them growing up.  These are heartwarming moments that make the job so rewarding.  

Recently we learned of the passing of Maurice Fohne.  I didn’t know Maurice, but he and his late wife, Carol, were so beloved by their neighbors that in 1995 a bench was dedicated to the couple commemorating their 50th wedding anniversary.  That bench still sits on the west side of our building.  It’s quite a nice spot.

We recently had that bench serviced and repainted as 23 years of weather had gotten the best of it.  Fortunately, that project was completed in time for a local resident to snap of a photo of it and show it to Maurice before he passed.  I’m told the smile that was brought to Maurice’s face was priceless.  

That’s community.  That’s neighbors looking out for neighbors.  The library just serves as the backdrop for those connections, memories, and experiences to transpire.  In my opinion, the very small part we played in that smile was by far the most important thing we were apart of that day.

Our thanks goes out to that patron who took that photo and presented it to Maurice, and for sharing the story afterwards.  If you have a story about how the library has had an impact on you, we’d love to hear it.  You can email me directly at ryan@ofpl.info.  No matter how small or big it might seem, please share.  

Thanks for reading.