Our Doors Are Open To All

I worked today. I don't mind working Sundays during the football season. After a college football Saturday, I like having something that gets me going the Sunday after. But I digress.

I usually arrive on Sundays around 12:30. We get things setup, put out newspapers and make sure everything is ready for opening at 1:00. Today was no different. What is different about Sundays is that I am there to see our customers come in. (Usually, I arrive when they arrive. Mornings just aren't my thing.) Today, the customers came in droves. It's a beautiful fall day. The sun is shining. A light breeze is blowing and the temperature is 75 degrees. The library was packed. The customers couldn't wait to get in, and they did not want to leave when we closed 4 hours later, as if they had no place else to go.

This always makes me wonder what the story, or their stories are. I mean I love my library as much as the next guy, but on a day like this - if you ain't payin' me... I ain't going inside anywhere. I even sent a quick text to my daughters today. The message was pretty simple. "It is a nice day. Go outside."

So what made those customers come inside?

I'm sure some of the younger customers had homework, and maybe the older ones wanted to read the newspaper. For many the library is their only access to a computer. For many...

As one might surmise, the many are customers with little or no means, questionable hygiene, and even sometimes homeless.

But they are people.

I'm sure there are some shysters, people who are working the system as they say. They're not the people I wonder about.

I wonder about the kindly older gentleman who has been in the library every day that I have worked there, but has never asked me for more than the New York Times or a pair of scissors. What brings him in every day?

I wonder about the mother and daughter who spend each day in the library, - every day all day. What brings them in?

I wonder about the lady who used to come in and have conversations with herself, but now speaks quietly, deliberately, and not to herself. What's the story there?

The list could go on and on. There are some stories I know, but there are more that I don't.

The library does quite a bit to help us help our customers. We hold seminars on poverty, forums on mental health, all sorts of training in human interaction. These are all very important.

But - they don't help us learn the stories, and I sometimes wonder if knowing them would help us help our customers better.

In the increasingly uncertain economy, it is possible that many folks could find themselves on the other side of prosperity very quickly. They might need someplace to go, someplace to spend their time. A place where they could feel welcome, especially on a warm and sunny perfect fall day.

I'm glad I work in that place. Our Doors Are Open To All.


DrawU2 said...

Wow...you blew me away. I have known some stories at my branch. Some pretty heart wrenching, too. Others very joyous. I am so glad you put your thought here because I have thought many of these things myself. It's also really great to know you have such a heart.Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As I read your blog and got to the end what confused me most was after working there all these years and being a friend for 15 years that you couldn't figure out what made the people come inside even on such a nice day. So I will help you out a little on this one. When I was about 6 a librarian told me about this other world that you can go to or visit anytime. She said even if you can't get to a library, a book will let you have "refuge" for a while.

As you said many people have their own "story." However, many people go to the library just to get away for a little while. The library is a place you can go and escape the pressures or problems of daily life. You can go in and step into another world and it's your choice whether what kind of place it is. Even the poeple who go and just sit, without reading or talking to others or even talking to themselves they are not "in" the libary they are in a world they found or created at the library that makes their day better for them. The way things are in the "real" world today, I'm surprised there are not lines of people waiting to get in.