One of the aspects of public librarianship that pulled me in was the idea of working with a variety of people with different life experiences and backgrounds. The ironic thing is that most people assume that as a librarian I must have a very dull, uninspiring job. They couldn't be further from the truth. The fact is that in the nearly 4 years since I've been behind the reference desk and out-and-about the community, I have had the privilege of meeting some fascinating, inspiring, and interesting people. It's just something that you can't find in an Amazon, Netflix, or Google algorithm. Now this doesn't mean that every single day of work is like a Lifetime movie, but the inspiring days are more often than not. Yesterday was one of them:
I was pulling the morning shift on the reference desk. It was a fairly busy morning which surprised me because it was Monday and usually those start off slowly as people head back to school and work. One of the patrons who came to the desk was an older gentleman who asked me for an obituary. Looking up obituaries and newspaper articles is pretty commonplace at my library- so I didn't think much about it. However, the obituary that this man requested was of his childhood friend whom he hadn't spoken to in a couple of years and recently found out that his friend not only died, but had taken his own life.
We found the obituary and I expressed my sadness over his loss. As the man was about to leave, he turned around and said "Say, could you possibly find an article in the Chicago Tribune from the early 1940s? When we were 12 years old we snuck into a Cubs game and ran out onto the baseball field as they won the game; a reporter took our picture."
After a little bit of digging, the article was found, complete with the picture of the man and his childhood friend, shaking the hand of a Cubs baseball player. With a mix of tears and a smile on his face, he proceeded to tell me more stories of the adventures that his buddy had taken him on, which included a run-in with Laurel and Hardy at a Bears game. As they grew up, their lives went separate ways but they managed to give each other a call every couple of years.
Retelling these stories of his mischievous buddy brought so much joy to his face; it was almost as if he was reliving those glory days. After I printed out the article with the picture, he nodded his head and simply said "Thank you for listening."
People come to the public library for a variety of reasons: study, read, research, learn, engage, discover, connect. The list goes on. But each person comes through the front doors of a public library for the same purpose whether they realize it or not: to know themselves, the world, the future, the past, and one another on a deeper, more meaningful level. Sometimes that's reading the latest thriller, attending a community program, improving their computer skills, or practicing another language. And sometimes its recalling fond memories from your youth with your childhood best friend. It really doesn't make a difference: the important part is that someone was there, willing to help and eager to listen.