I was talking to a colleague the other day about library services and how kids and their people tend to use them these days. We talked about how, in days past, kids would walk up to an information desk and submit a question, sometimes written down on a piece of paper. We laughed, thinking how those hand written questions were like an early type of Google request! The answers most youngsters sought out were, on the most part, pretty straightforward and easy to find. Nothing quite like a dictionary, encyclopedia, or almanac on hand to help answer questions like “what is the state flower of Arkansas?”, “how long do you cook a three-minute egg?” or “what is the capital of Afghanistan?” These days, so many folks have phones, laptops, wi-fi, and such at their disposal that the idea of waiting to go the library to ask a simple reference question seems a bit far-fetched. Instead of asking how high the Empire State Building is, my colleague and I mused, what DO folks want to do when they come visit the library?

Well, from what we’ve experienced since we opened our doors to browsing again is that our most basic, fundamental services are still the most popular and that our patrons’ desire for them has not waned. As a matter of fact, those services, the kind that set libraries apart from all other businesses, have become more popular than ever! Every day the number of folks that come through the bronze gates of the Medford children’s department grows. Patrons have been coming in to browse our collections, check out books and materials of all kinds, and utilize our staff’s reader’s advisory, reference, and catalog search skills in real time. But what we have heard, more than anything else, is that people have been coming back into the library because they missed us. They longed to reconnect with library staff, with their fellow patrons, and with that unique sense of community that libraries selflessly provide.

That “sense of community” is what so many of us longed for this past year. As children’s library folk, what we discovered, even with all the services that we had to offer online, was that the face-to-face, real time engagements we shared with our patrons was the real mission at hand. We found that serving the public inside our very public libraries was truly the most important part of our daily professional lives. Conversation, play, sharing books, talking about family, is a large part of the underlying foundation of our work. That part of our work is filled with joy, and that joy, shared daily with our patrons, is heady stuff, indeed.

With summer just around the corner, there are plenty of fun ways to get to know your community once again. Take walks, check out local trails, visit local farmers markets and craft fairs, attend local outdoor events, and tune into civic activities and events via the internet. I find it fun and interesting, now that our doors are open, that all the cool things that libraries are good for are even more fun to do outdoors! Check out some books to read under a tree, or find a good cookbook with ideas for picnic lunches or kids’ parties. The library is a good source for fun, outside ideas, where play, family, and community merge into one!

Working with kids and their people is a bright, noisy, fun, and energetic affair and is one of the most effective ways that we, as children’s librarians, have to build community. Having the doors open again to the public has been like watching spring unfold all over again, with flowers not just blooming in the fields around us, but in the hallways, information desks, and aisles of the library, too. What a thrill it is to have our public back in our libraries once again! How wonderful it is that Jackson County Library Services can play such an important and meaningful role in the day-to-day lives of their communities! And be sure to tune into all the exciting events and programs we have in store for you coming up soon for Summer Reading! There will be plenty of fun for everyone, from bees to storytellers, from natural dye crafts to free books and more!