Library Story: From Sparta To Jamestown Via Libraries

Jill Shaffer is an Ecologist for the USGS, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown, ND

Libraries are the dynamic testament to a community’s need for intellectual stimulation and sense of community.  I can’t imagine a thriving community without a library.  My own library story begins at the Sparta Free Library in small town Sparta, Wisconsin.  It was built with funds by Andrew Carnegie in an impressive neoclassical revival style of architecture and was the site chosen by my senior class for our class photo.  I have fond memories of the beautifully illustrated set of Beatrix Potter books, and I avidly devoured every Walter Farley book in The Black Stallion series, igniting a love for horses and riding that will never diminish.

As an adult and parent, I have found the Alfred Dickey Public Library to be a resource that I continually draw upon, both personally and as my son, Dillon, progresses through the stages of child development.  For an economically minded parent, the library can’t be beat for the breadth of resources.  A modern library is so much more than books.  The Alfred Dickey Public Library provides movies, both of an entertaining and an educational nature.  When  Dillon was in elementary school, we visited weekly to pick out not just Bob the Builder and Dora movies, but also movies in the Bill Nye the Science guy series, and movies on machines, and rocks, and so many other topics fascinating to a young child.  We picked out books-on-tape for long rides back to Wisconsin.  Dillon participated in the summer reading program.  He used the computers.  And it was all free!  What a bargain!  As a Cub Scout leader, the wonderful librarians helped me with many a Cub Scout program, hosting meetings and helping to locate resources for scout topics.

Now that Dillon is in middle school, I am very appreciative that the Library is so conveniently located for those times when he needs to wait after school until I can pick him up. What better place than a library – where he is exposed to limitless new ideas!  He just recently attended a program on building his own computer—boy, did that get him excited!  The large number of other children that frequent the library for the same purposes serves as just one reminder of why the community will benefit from the expansion of our library.  To say it is an investment in our future is trite, but sometimes trite statements ring with the truth!

As an adult who has served on several boards focused on youth and education, I so appreciate the benefits of the Library in serving children and families of all socioeconomic levels.  For a child who comes from a family that can’t afford books, or that doesn’t appreciate the power of books, the Library can fill a gap that might not otherwise be available to that child.  The Library also provides safe access to computers and the Internet, thus again, helping to level an unbalanced socioeconomic playing field in the community.  To me, this is one of the most important societal values that a library provides to a community.

And then there is the library that I draw upon — just for me.  While going through a particularly stressful period a few years back, I turned to the Alfred Dickey Public Library for some daily diversion and chanced upon several authors that continue to delight me to this day.  I am a regular patron of the Inter Library Loan System.  I can read in a magazine about a new book on some esoteric subject and have it on order down at the library within a few hours.  I still like the feel of a book in my hand, but I have on occasion utilized their e-reader capabilities, and find the audio books indispensable for long trips.   A community without a dynamic library would be an intellectually depauperate place to live—I hope I never have to live in such a community!  I think I’m going to suggest that Bill Kennedy start a Love your Library week!!

*United States Geological Survey