If I hear one more library staff member say this (and I’ve heard it from every level of worker, from page to upper administration), I might scream.
OF COURSE THEY HAVE MISSED US.
Our library skipped curbside and opened to the public on June 1st. That has had it’s pros and cons (less work for staff, but some of us suspect that many are still hesitant to come on in), but as it is, we’ve been very slow. The model at the moment is basically ‘grab & go;’ check out your materials and then please leave. All our tables and chairs are packed up in a corner, and we have only few computers scattered throughout our system (with NONE at our downtown location). And so because of this slowness, people have been acting very defeated and as though people only used to visit us to get books.
WE’VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS THAT WE ARE AND NEED TO FOCUS ON MORE THAN BOOKS.
I just can’t believe people honestly think our users haven’t missed us. You know who has missed us, and who hasn’t returned?
– school-assigned tutors who rely on our big tables to spread out their teaching materials
– students and business owners looking for a (mostly) distraction-free environment to work on projects
– parents & preschoolers excited for storytime
– widowers who come to read the newspaper daily
– teachers looking to borrow our puppets, curriculum supplies and other goodies
– parents looking for great audiobooks for the long vacation roadtrip (that aren’t being taken this summer)
– kids looking for an air-conditioned hangout to get away from their homes for the day for whatever reason
– teens who don’t have internet at home & want to play roblox or a gaming console with their friends
– adults without access to wifi who simply want to check their facebook without using phone data
– ANYONE without internet (who therefore also cannot take advantage of any virtual programming being offered)
– new parents who rely on babytime to learn early literacy skills and connect with other parents for the first time in 6+ months
– young adults not into the bar scene who want to hang out and play a board game with their friends
– the retired ladies of our book club who loyally attend each month
– anyone who needs to use a copier
– the homeless patrons who just want somewhere cool & quiet to sit for a few hours
– daycare centers used to weekly storytime visits
– school-age kids and parents excited for fun, free, and educational programming
– teens excited to attend the cooking and movie programs we had started to plan for this summer (not to mention the weekly game night hangout that was always, always, always held (because the kids would be here anyways), and could only be stopped by a PANDEMIC)
Why are these patrons considered less-than when it comes to library users? Are they not taking advantage of the things we offer? Of COURSE our stats are down; our daily attendance dismal. What we are able to offer at the moment is just a shadow of the library we’ve been building for decades. I mourn for the job that was (and worry about the kids I haven’t seen in months), but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the library go out with a hushed whimper.
One thought on ““Maybe they didn’t miss us.””
Thank you for this excellent essay. It perfectly sums up this sad state of affairs, and reminds us all to be vigilant in advocating for teens and for libraries to someday return to a better semblance of how they should be.