“UKRAINIAN LIBRARIANS, I SALUTE YOU!”—March, 2022
The third decade of the 21st century has not gotten off to a very good start. After two years of dealing with a worldwide pandemic, we are now faced with another potential global disaster as a war escalates in Ukraine.
A recent tweet from Nicholas Poole, CEO of the CILIP, the United Kingdom’s library and information association, showcased the resolve and steadfastness of all the Ukrainian people as he quoted a message from the Ukrainian Library Association:
“Bloody hell. Looking at a message from the Ukraine Library Association concerning the cancellation of their forthcoming conference. it basically says “We will reschedule just as soon as we have finished vanquishing our invaders”. Ukrainian Librarians, I salute you!”
Libraries have often been called a refuge from the craziness of the world, but the Ukrainian librarians have taken this to a whole new level. I visited the Ukrainian Library Association’s webpage and started to follow them on social media. Libraries throughout the country converted to bomb shelters and hospitals with librarians tending to the needs of their patrons by giving first aid, food, warmth and comfort. All the while, their mission to connect their public to accurate information remains at the forefront as they work to continue to pass on important news from public services to the people.
Librarians are known for their friendliness and willingness to help others and a crisis brings out the best in them. Libraries all over Europe have jumped in with a helping hand, offering assistance to Ukrainian refugees in a number of ways from issuing temporary library cards, assisting in navigating the internet and locating temporary shelter. Their question is the same universal questions all librarians ask their patrons. “How can I help?”
“How can I help?” is a question most people are asking themselves these days. After all, no one wants a war. Below is a list of organizations aiding the humanitarian effort in Ukraine that are accepting donations:
- Ukrainian Red Cross
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- United Way’s United for Ukraine Fund
- International Rescue Committee
- Save the Children
- UN Refugee Agency
I pray for peace. I pray for the safety of civilians. I pray for the preservation of knowledge, information and culture.
Ukrainian librarians, I too salute you.
DELTA STRAIN, WHY’D YOU HAVE TO BE SUCH A PAIN?—-August, 2021
Well it was nice while it lasted. It’s hard to believe that a few short weeks ago things were looking (dare we say it?) relatively normal. Covid cases dropped, vaccines became more readily available, and, glory of glories, the fully vaccinated were finally able to drop their masks. Then the Delta strain of coronavirus came along and started wreaking havoc everywhere. Just how effective are the vaccines against this new strain? What are breakthrough cases and why are they happening? Do the benefits of a Covid vaccine outway the concerns of a vaccine that has only been authorized for emergency use? Should we or should we not get vaccinated? Every day, our newsfeeds are filled with stories ranging from doom and deeath of the unvaccinated to the unknown yet fearful fate of the vaccinated. We are left confused, distrustful, frustrated and desperate for answers.
As a public librarian, it is not my job to tell people what to do, but rather to provide the reliable information to help my patrons make the best possible choices for themselves and their families. Below is a list of reliable resources regarding the Covid-19 vaccines. If you or someone you know is considering getting a vaccine, please explore the websites below. These are vetted, reliable medical websites providing information on the vaccines. If you have further questions, please ask your family doctor. Now more than ever, it is time to put aside the politics, opinions and social media and get the facts, so that you can make a wise decision. Be well.
THE BEE BUZZES BACK—July, 2021
Yesterday we watched in amazement as 14-year-old Zaila Avant-Garde spelled her way to win the 2021 Scripps Spelling Bee. The winning word was Murraya (phonetically pronounced “muh-ree-yuh”) which is defined as “a genus belonging to the Rutaceae family, a citrus family of flowering plants.” I never heard of it, let alone ever had an occasion to pronounce it. I would have found myself sitting down at the event long before this introduction of this word, so kudos to Zaila and all of the other young super spellers. But did you ever wonder what spelling has to do with bees?
According to the internet, the word bee historically has been used to describe a get-together for communal work, like a husking bee or a quilting bee. The word bee probably comes from dialectal been or bean, meaning “help given by neighbors.”
Spelling bees originated in the United States in the 1800s as a way to motivate students to learn standardized spelling and were organized locally through towns and schools. The first National Spelling Bee was held in 1925 in Washington D.C. and since then the activity has expanded to other countries and other age groups. However, no matter how large or elaborate the event becomes, the heart of every spelling bee is a celebration of scholarship and community.
The Library’s Community Spelling Bee returns on October 1. We invite you to “bee” a part of it—-form a team, sponsor a team or come to the event and cheer on the spellers. It’s a great event that help supports a great community service and a wonderful way to reconnect with your friends and neighbors. See you at the Bee!
A YEAR OF WONDER—June, 2021
Several years ago, I read the Geraldine Brooks book by the above title, A Year of Wonders: A Journal of the Plague Year. The book itself focuses on a small village in England that finds itself infested with the bubonic plague of 1666. The impulse, of course is to run, but instead the village very woke minister convinces his flock that they could help mitigate the spread by hunkering down and trying to contain the plague to their village. It is a rough year, filled with fear, illness, death, arguing and people breaking the rules. But there is an ending.
Fast forward 354 years later. History is repeating itself. Over the past year during the Covid-19 pandemic, we feared. We grieved. We fought. We held our breath as we bet on science to come up with a treatment, a vaccine or something. We turned our everyday lives on their heads as we tried to function normally in a totally abnormal way.
Pennsylvania Governor Wolf will be lifting the mask mandate on June 28 as will the library. The coronavirus cases are down. Vaccines are now available. It’s time to come out of our sleepy little cocoon and resume our normal lives.
But it’s impossible to go through a catastrophic event like a pandemic without changing. The library has changed as well. We learned the value and convenience of virtual programming and the ability to reach wider audiences. We coached a number of patrons who never touched an e-reader through the process and opened up doors to an entirely new way of reading filled with variety and convenience. But above all, we learned the value of community and the importance of our link in that chain. Our services have been called a “lifeline” and a “respite” for those isolated from family and friends. While we stayed in touch with smiles behind masks during curbside deliveries and telephone conversations, it is an absolute pleasure for us to actually “see” our patrons and families coming into the building again. Coming back to a place where everyone really does know your name.
This is one more chapter in our library’s history. I’ve been keeping a file—a primer, if you will—for the next librarian that needs to pilot this ship through another crisis. A documentation of how we functioned during this time that will probably stay safely tucked away until the library’s bicentennial (or, heaven forbid, the next pandemic!). Amid all the signs and invoices for masks, hand sanitizer and plexiglass, it is my hope that the future will see a proud heart that kept beating strong and did its part to keep the community connected during this wild and crazy time.