This year's National Library Week theme is Libraries = Strong Communities. I like the idea, but I'm not sure that the equation is completely accurate. The very existence of a library facility within a community will not necessarily create a strong community. You need a strong library to create a strong community. And, you need a strong community in order to have a strong library. Because the library is about the people who use it.
Say a patron visits the Pendleton Community Public Library for the first time because he needs a document notarized. He may happen upon the Library of Things and quickly find out that he can check out a free power washer. In talking with the library staff, he also learns that a mobile hotspot and telescope are free to check out. Perhaps he sees a new movie that he wants to watch. Maybe he picks up the latest newsletter and learns that the library offers free legal assistance programs and Saturday exercise classes.
This individual may or may not become a regular user of the library, and that's okay. Of course, we'd love for him to be a steady patron, but at the very least, we'd like for him to be a steady supporter. By spreading the word about the public library and what it offers, others can learn about the services and resources available to them, right here in Pendleton. By connecting individuals to the specific resources they need, the library becomes a more valuable institution, fulfilling the unique needs of our community in a way that only the public library can.
Libraries help people every day in any number of ways. Sure, we'll help you find a good book. But, we'll also help you find the right tax form. We'll answer your reference questions. We'll also help you with a crossword puzzle. We'll help you navigate a job search or proofread your resume. We'll give you a tour of the community garden and a packet of seeds to try at home. Even if you need a little help putting food on the table this month, we can help.
Your public library is always here for you. But we need you to be here for us. Without patrons and supporters, the library is just a building. Buildings don't create strong communities. The people inside of them do.