Mountlake Terrace Library Blog

Monday, November 29, 2010

Royal Watch - And Some Thoughts on Libraries

I am officially on Royal Watch, now that Prince William has popped the question to his lady love, Kate Middleton, and the wedding date has been set (April 29 – the same day of the month of Charles’ and Diana’s wedding).

I am getting ready to celebrate, and I've already decided what I am going to wear. It may be in the middle of the night here, but I won't be wearing pajamas!

I couldn’t be more chuffed (that’s Brit-speak for happy), as I have been a fan of the Royal Family and all things British since practically birth. When I was growing up, I remember books around the house about the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, so I think my mother must have started me down that road. I was born the same year as Prince Charles, so she probably had some thoughts about her little princess marrying a real Prince.

And of course the "British Invasion" of the 1960’s, and the Beatles, also set my imagination awhirl, as I fantasized about marrying Paul, wearing cute Mary Quant dresses and moving into a lovely home in the British countryside with Paul.

(I know this picture is not the Beatles - this is "British Invasion" part.)

Since then, I can’t get enough of the UK – TV shows, books, visits, movies…. I have been watching the British soap Eastenders for over 25 years, I have adopted such expressions as knackered (tired), peckish (hungry) and adverts (advertisements, which I never have to watch because I have TIVO), and when I hear a British accent, I swoon. If I have lived before, it had to be as a Brit.

What does this have to do with libraries?I

I’m not sure, but I will think about that while I run upstairs to put my Princess Diana doll back into her wedding dress.

It was Diana who most sparked my imagination.

I loved her from those first moments as Shy Di and as she walked down the aisle to marry Prince Charles.

Like millions of other Americans, I woke up in the middle of the night to watch the wedding.

It was cause for celebration.

I followed her through the births of her boys

to that sad interview where she revealed there were “three of us” in her marriage to her even sadder death.

I was up all night watching the funeral and crying my eyes out as her two boys walked behind her coffin with Harry’s card on it that said “Mummy.” I feel choked up just thinking about it. I’m still not over it.

Lest you think I don’t have much of a life (well, I kind of don’t), I am not alone in my fascination with Diana. Diana evoked something in people, something far greater than mere celebrity watching. I just felt happy to be in the world with her. Loved her, loved her clothes, loved the work that she did, loved her sons.

And now we have some things to celebrate again --

A Royal Wedding...

And Diana’s legacy…a son who will be King but a different sort of King. Yes, there will be the traditions, but Diana strove to bring her sons up knowing something of the world besides those royal traditions, to have a purpose beyond being just Royal.

And watching Prince William and his Duchess mature and rule will bring some of Diana back to the British Monarchy (I told you I didn’t have much of a life).

So how are libraries related to this?

…let’s see…here are some things I was thinking while getting my Diana doll ready for the big occasion.

Libraries Rule! Well, that’s true but, no, that won’t work.

Libraries are majestic…well, yes, but…mmm…

Actually I think the fascination that many Americans have with Royalty is the fact that we don’t have it as a tradition. Look how we tried to turn the administration of JFK into a sort of royal reign by calling it "Camelot."

Traditions move and uplift people.

Take for example, the Coronation of Elizabeth II. It still gives me chills thinking of her walking down the aisle at 23 with the chorus resounding all around, ready to embrace her destiny and carry out the royal traditions– ahem, not that I am old enough to have actually seen it at the time.

But traditions are also comforting.

It is comforting to know that from generation to generation certain things will always be there, that they can be counted on, that they will happen again and again.

And that’s what brings me around to public libraries.

They are innovative and awash in technology, but the pillars that hold public libraries up are the positive traditions they uphold as a haven for free thought and learning that embodies what democracy is all about.

Generation to generation...

Public Libraries will always be here (despite what people say about the Internet, trust me).

Public Libraries can be counted upon to offer a warm, welcoming environment for children to learn reading skills, do their homework and just laugh and play during family story times. They offer free services, quality classes and programs and a wide range of materials that cover all interests and points of view.

Public Libraries will again and again work to meet current community needs by providing materials and services that help people make sense of the world they live in.

We may not have the tradition of a Royal Family, but our free and open public libraries keep alive a tradition that embraces freedom: freedom to read, freedom to watch, freedom to seek whatever information one needs to live one’s life.

And that is also something to celebrate.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuff That Should Not Happen

Something happened that made me think there are some things that just should not happen.

Last night I was innocently standing in the kitchen surrounded by what is left of my loved ones, (my husband and three dogs), when all of a sudden I felt this sharp pain in my leg. I looked down and saw a puncture wound and blood. I realized I had stumbled into a drama between my beloved little toy poodle and our collie, as they battled over a bit of potato salad in a plastic container I had set down on the floor. The poodle had chosen to sink his chompers into my leg in an effort to wrest the container from the clutches of the collie. I know it was the poodle because the plastic carton was missing and the only evidence of the poodle was the tuft of his tail sticking out from under the dining room chair as he savored that last bit of potato salad.

My leg hurt, but what hurt most was the realization that my little doggy son, who every evening sat contentedly on my lap, licked me when I was sad and acted happy to see me when I came home, was in fact not my little doggy son, but a dog, plain and simple, who would always choose the plastic carton with the remnants of potato salad in it (and bite me for it, if necessary), no matter how much love I lavished upon him.

That just shouldn’t happen.

So I started to think about other stuff that should not happen like…

School buses should not be allowed to operate between the hours of 7am and 8:30am, when I am on my way to work. Is it me, or do the moms really have to stand outside the stopped bus and chat with the driver after their little darling is already in his seat? I know the little tykes need to get to school, but we adults have enough stress to deal with besides sitting behind a stopped school bus when we are late, and trying to get to a meeting with our boss. Why can’t these kids walk to school? I had to.

Also something else that should not happen is Bristol Palin winning “Dancing with the Stars.” Granted she has improved, and I have even been rooting for her a bit (she seems like a nice girl), but enough already. She is no Brandy or Jennifer Gray. If whatever force that is currently at work keeping her on the show is able to win it for her, that shouldn’t happen.

And what about about deep fat fried butter? Should that happen?

As for tough times, when libraries are needed more than ever, they should not have to cut hours and close branches.

We at Sno-isle are fortunate to be a part of a library district where we can ask the voters to fund the library. And fortunately, they have. But many library systems are not so lucky.

Seattle Public Library, a world class library by any definition, is part of the City of Seattle, so must ask the City for funding. Unfortunately, the library is one of many departments asking for money, and there doesn't seem to be enough to go around. So hours have been cut, staff must take furloughs (that means no pay) and the collection suffers.

The Salinas Public Library in California, home of the archives of native son, John Steinbeck, closed for a time due to lack of funding, giving Salinas, a town of over 100,000 people, the dubious honor of being the largest city west of the Mississippi with no library service.

These are not isolated incidents.

Public libraries all over the country – Denver, Camden, Queens, Phoenix, Minneapolis - have all suffered branch closures and curtailment of services and hours due to federal and state budget decisions.

This not only shouldn’t happen, it is a blow to democracy.

Equal access to information is a basic right in a democratic society. Use of public libraries is free and not limited by race, religion, income, age, disability or education. Everyone is welcome.

The library is a lifeline for many.

Not everyone can afford to buy books, subscribe to newspapers and magazines, to get DVDs from Netflix or go to the theater to see quality programs. Not everyone has a computer and Internet access. And every child does not have a quiet place to study.

In tough economic times, people look to the library for these services and a place to work, study or gather as a community. Families can attend free quality programs. Newcomers come to the library for help with English and help seeking citizenship. People who can’t read look to the library for literacy help. Those who don’t know how to use computers take free classes at the library.

Public libraries level the playing field and help people pursue the American Dream.

For all the good that libraries do…for what they represent in our democracy…

When it comes time for the powers that be to hand out the money, libraries should be at the top of the list.

That is what should happen.

What shouldn’t happen…a mother left in an empty nest with a toy poodle who would sell her out for leftover potato salad.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Expert Technology Help for Seniors

This Saturday we are offering another Gadget Coaching session. Tech-savvy teen volunteers will be available to assist senior citizens with their questions about their cell phones, mp3 players, laptops and other hand-held devices.

You don't have to be a senior to participate...the teens are happy to help anyone with questions about their gadgets!

Saturday November 13, 2010 - 1-3pm
Mountlake Terrace Library