Saturday, February 7, 2015

Celebrating National Libraries Day

My father and other Village of Waterford board members breaking
ground for the Waterford Library building, the village's first
permanent library.  My father is the third one from the right.
Today is National Libraries Day and it is one of my favorite days of the year. I have a deep love for libraries and they have always been important in my life.

My first memory of a library was the small library in Waterford, Wisconsin, the little village where I spent my childhood.  At the time, the library was in someone's home.  There was an old man in charge.  I can still smell the books in my memory.  My father was on the Board of the Village of Waterford at a time that this small library was deemed too small.  This is a photo of him with the other Village Board members breaking ground for the new library (which was subsequently replaced a generation later).  He is the third one from the right and looking very much in 1960's Mad Men style.  As I got older, I spent a considerable amount of time in the library my father helped develop.  My mother, and avid reader, would send me and my siblings out to the library to get her books weekly.  It was, in part, probably an excuse to get us out of the house, but I never minded the chore.

Chronologically, my next favorite library is the Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  This is the home of the amazing American Geographical Society Collection, one of the best collections of rare maps and books in the world.  While working on my Master's and Ph.D., I would spend considerable time studying in that space.  One of the librarians who worked there, the late Howard Deller, used to show me some of the treasures of the collection when I needed a break.

I also have to give kudos to the library at the University of South Florida.  It was one of the first university libraries to fully embrace the electronic age.  From the great librarians there, especially Todd Chavez, I learned that libraries are not just buildings with books, but that they have an important role in building and curating collections of material.  These collections, while often physical collections, can also be electronic collections.  I worked with Todd and others in establishing the Karst Information Portal, an online digital archive of karst knowledge from around the world.

The Harris-Manchester Library at Oxford.
While my time at Oxford was brief, the libraries there made a great impression on me.  And I do mean libraries.  Oxford has many libraries and I didn't get a chance to see them all.  Some were modern and functional like any American university library--no wasted money on beauty or embellishments.  Others were spectacular and inspirational.  I will always treasure my time in the Harris Manchester Library at Oxford where I had late night access and I worked alone in that lovely place.  Sue Killoran, the Fellow Librarian there, follows in the path of many university librarians:  helpful, kind, thoughtful, and very intelligent on a wide array of subjects.

There are many things I like about the Hofstra University Library.  The people who work there are incredibly helpful.  I am particularly fond Geri Solomon and all the folks in Special Collections.  They were among the first people to help me acclimate to Hofstra and they have a wonderful sensibility about their collections and their displays.  One of the faculty librarians, Alan Ballin has been very supportive in building up the sustainability book collection and even puts up an annual Earth Day book display at the main entrance to the library.
Me in my favorite library
at home in Long Island.

The Port Washington library, my local library here in Long Island, has to be one of the best community libraries in the country.  The space is lovely for writing.  The library has an art gallery, conference and meeting rooms, a lecture room, and great collections.  There are also views of Manhasset Bay.

Finally, my home office and library is perhaps my favorite place in the world.  Mario put this space together for me and I really treasure it.  As part of National Libraries Day, library enthusiasts are asked to post a selfie of themselves in their favorite library and here is my selfie at home today.

What are your memories of libraries?  What is your favorite library or librarian?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Robert, When I was visiting your lovely home in Long Island recently, Mario let me peek in your library in-progress. Even though it wasn't finished I knew that it was going to be a spectacular space for you to write.
One of my fondest memories of Jim was that every week he would come home from the Library with a bag of books. He took great comfort in reading for pleasure.
My other favorite memory was volunteering at the boys elementary school library. I gained a wonderful appreciation of the illustrations of children's books and the simplicity of the stories that the kids liked the best. The Librarian was quite creative in her presentations to the kids. The annual book fair was delightful. Watching the kids create their lists of books they wanted to buy. Their wants always greater than their funds allowed. Libraries were always such a wonderful community place wherever we lived. I hope in this day of all-electronic access that parents remember to take their kids to the library and that Librarians never lose sight of the joy they bring to their communities.