[ed note: JP Porcaro is a Senior Advisor to EveryLibrary]
I had a bad experience this week. I went to my local public library. No one greeted me positively (with, Dewey forbid, a smile), asked if I needed help, or bothered to recognize me or my child’s existence. It was dark, strewn with out-of-place books, and covered in negatively confusing signage. As NJ’s Chapter Councilor to the ALA, I know this isn’t the norm in New Jersey libraries; just the fact that I expected to be asked if I needed help means that I have experienced what wonderful, giving, helpful places libraries are. However, just because my experience is anomalous, doesn’t make it ok. Any person’s experience in any library anywhere matters to all libraries everywhere. Public opinion is the “sum of the parts” of the public, of which I am a member, and every time someone has a bad experience, that drops us down ever so slightly.
Libraries are where we #makeithappen. WE! Our staff, our community, all of us. The world. There are so many platitudes and clichés that are attached to make-it-happen, and friends love to poke me sarcastically about it, but that doesn’t make that phrase less “true” or important. Platitudes like:
- Small events can add up to big changes.
- Success is a result of the sum of our work.
- Each small step isn’t a journey until you look back to see how far you’ve come.
Every time “the media” recognizes that good work we are all doing for our communities via our work in libraries, while those recognitions may individually seem small and inconsequential, they are all steps on a journey of advocacy. I was thrilled to see not just photos of librarians in Slate’s piece “This Is What A Librarian Looks Like“, but to see a journalist from outside the field recognizing our good work. This was a project that started with an open call from Librarian Wardrobe, a blog that catalogs the attire of library workers. The positivity that surrounds a piece which reminds the public of our good work gives us a few tick marks towards that goal of making the world a better place.
I look at EveryLibrary as an amazing example of how even the smallest positive steps can amount to really large wonderful changes, which I why I am writing this here and not on makingithappen.me or my tumblr. In 2013, for every $1 spent on campaigns helped libraries secure $1,450 at the ballot box. Evey small dollar, together, made a big difference.
And of course, what we do in our libraries matters the most on a daily basis: to our users, our stakeholders, our community. Every time a person walks away from a library with that wonder of fulfillment that caused so many of us to become librarians, we can say: “we did it“. The value of every-day advocacy like that won’t replace organized advocacy efforts, but it does help us on our journey towards a better world. And think about how blessed you are, at this point in your life, that you even had a library to use! Maybe you didn’t need the library for your whole life, but the fact that it was there in those times that you needed it? That is so powerful to me.
I’ll never get tired of seeing the tattoos, crazy colored hair, buns, fun outfits, and cardigans that librarians wear. I’ll never get over us patting ourselves on the back for a job well done, because we’re all doing good work and we all deserve that sometimes. But what I just can’t get enough of is librarianship as a whole, and how we all work together to make this happen. Remember that every small step we take adds up to the wonderful “whole” we are are building. The world is a better place because us, and I am happy and blessed to be part of this group of people.
All the light and love,
Librarian for Acquisitions and Technological Discovery, New Jersey City University.
ALA Chapter Councilor, NJ.
Senior Advisor, EveryLibrary.