April 2009

In the last five years, I’ve spent countless hours in waiting rooms and doctors offices across Rhode Island, including two surgeries for me and one for my preschool aged daughter. One doctor told me flatly that I should have come in sooner; two other doctors haven’t had the chance. The insurance company has bounced claims back and forth, changed our prescription copays, companies, and policies, and required us to appeal basic treatment decisions. I’ve been told by various well-meaning folks to exercise more, move less, eat better, pray more, and just be nicer. We’re signing my daughter up for Kindergarten now, but the secretary at the school seems a bit irritated that my paperwork is late. We’ve collected the dentist’s form, the doctor’s form, the eye doctor’s form, and three copies of our racial heritage form, but she calls me to task in front of my daughter. In the last five years, all kinds of people have had reason to correct, criticize, amend, appeal, and deny me. But never at the library.

When I use the library, I hear people being helpful, polite, and interested in each other. My mother flew to Dubai on business, and one part-timer I’ve never met helped me find pictures to show my daughter. When my daughter wanted to show off that she can reach the water fountain, the friendly director was delighted. Because the director cares enough to watch, this event becomes precious, and it cements in all of us the belief that society is worth living in.

We all have work to do; librarians remember that building society is part of that work.

I want library services restored because I want my child to grow up knowing that people are important. I want her to remember being too small to drink by herself, and finally old enough to reach, and one day old enough to stop in by herself on her bike. When she looks back on her hours at the library, she’ll equate reading and learning with a sense of common decency and value placed on human life.

Librarians teach people to see the world around them, to imagine better futures, and to believe in answers and in dreams. Selfishly, I want that feeling for myself, as well. To sit among the librarians is to drink at the oasis.

When we lose librarians, we are alone in the desert.

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girlsmoonsand2bI have the girls engaged in what you might call a “science trap.”  Armed with some cheap ice cream bowls, a set of plastic utensils, and a bunch of mixing bowls, the girls are mixing up flavors of ice cream.   What flavor of ice cream do you have? I ask Carolyn.  “Flambe Crambe, Sprinkly Pink,” she says.  “There aren’t really any sprinkly pinks, but I guess that’s just its name.”  Actually, I went all out this time, giving them a bowl of water with a little moon sand in it, some plastic princess plates, and even a water bottle, which they have fun shaking to see if the moon sand will mix in.  (It doesn’t.)  I’m in my element here: setting out resources that build their brains and their imaginations, promote sharing and playing, and everyone is relaxed and safe.  Fun at its best.  They’re quibbling, but no big deal.  “I want to play play doh instead.”  “How come I don’t have a Belle plate?”  “That’s not my bowl, it’s Libby’s.”  I can’t decide if Carolyn’s new haircut makes her look like a supermodel or a street urchin.   Carolyn just added some “odorant”  and dish soap to her cupcakes.  “When are we going to play play doh?” asks Libby.  I can’t shake the feeling that she has to go to the bathroom, but it’s not like her to hold it.

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