I don’t think I gave much thought to what the modern library is really all about and how many diverse individuals it touches until I became a volunteer and got a peek behind the curtain. That’s when I glimpsed the passionate need to serve that is the librarian’s hallmark. That’s when I saw the creative genius that continuously develops new programming to entertain and educate virtually any segment of the population astute enough to recognize and take advantage of it.
But, even then, I was only partially enlightened to its potential. Because, I still tended to buttonhole the library as a place designed for the sighted...for those who wanted to check out a book and escape into the stimulation and reveries provided by the words on the page.
It probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, when I discovered that the library was hosting classes to teach sign language for those with hearing loss and those who wanted to communicate with them.
But, the real eye-opener occurred this summer when one visitor to Vibes Fest shared what the music festival meant to him and how it created a new respect in him for how the library can impact his quality of life.
His name was Saul, and he is blind. His sighted family were big fans of the library, but he didn’t have a lot of use for it because he didn’t feel the library offered any programs for him. Plus, he did not have transportation to come to the library during the week. But a weekend festival was a different thing, especially when his family convinced him to attend with them.
So, Saul joined some of the more than 1,000 other music lovers who watched—or just listened—to bands perform on two different stages during the two-day event.
Saul spent most of Saturday jamming in the library, connecting with patrons and discovering new KDL resources with library staff. In a sense it figuratively opened his eyes to the potential that is the library. He said it was the first time since the pandemic that he could find a place where he felt like he belonged. That is a powerful impact to have on someone because it’s hard to put a value on giving someone a sense of belonging.
It may have taken me awhile, and I’m sure I have a lot more to learn. But, I’m grateful to people like Saul for helping me better understand the reach and positive impact that our library and librarians have in making our community a better place to live, work, love, play and learn.