I have always found January to be a contemplative month. Certainly, for me, it is a time to think over the past year and recollect the good times, the challenges and goals loosely set (and sometimes even met).

It is also time for me to reset. I think about who I am, who I want to be, and sort of ground myself by taking the time to revisit the person I’ve become, of the changes that an entire year lived will inevitably bring. 

When it comes to the library, I also take the time to do a reset. It’s a way for me to mindfully pay attention to all aspects of what it means to work in this field and the service we provide. It sounds simple, but it can be surprisingly challenging to slow down enough to really reflect on what it is that I do, what we the public service employees all do. 

On New Year’s Eve for instance, it was a relatively slow day here in Ashland. And so, as part of my reset, I took a stroll through the building. At the help desk, our resource specialist Clark was giving his undivided attention to a patron. I’m not sure what the conversation was about, but the patron seemed grateful to visit with someone who was willing to listen. 

At the circulation desk, library associate Juniper was in the middle of a book discussion with another library patron. Over in the magazine section, one or two people sat in comfy chairs reading one of the many magazines that are on display. Another was in a chair facing the window, quietly reading a book and sipping a coffee. 

Further down, two more patrons sat next to each other looking at their phones and discussing whatever it was they were looking at. 

On my way up to the teen department, I noticed people on their laptops, an older gentleman quietly reading the newspaper and having a little snack. As I climbed the stairs, I was able to look at all the activity with a bird’s eye view, and I’m not going to lie, I got a little choked up. It just brought home to me that one of the greatest services the library provides is a place to be. 

To be warm,  

To be safe  

To be around other people (or to be alone) 

To be acknowledged 

To be accepted 

To Belong 

Where else in society is there a place that does all of that? Where else can a family come and hang out for hours during the inclement days of winter or the heat of the summer?

Where else are teens offered a space and the freedom to just be themselves?

Where else are our unhoused neighbors welcomed and offered a safe space where they can just relax?

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, being an employee of the library means I am a part of all that; that I and all the others who work in public-facing positions contribute to the good that is the library. For me, it is both humbling and gratifying to contemplate.