The Joy of Books

Just the other day, I helped a child locate a book she couldn’t find on her own. After I handed it to her, she clutched the book to her chest and literally jumped for joy. I love seeing this sort of excitement on a child’s face over a book! The feeling is contagious and makes me love my job even more! It also got me thinking about the importance of passing on a lifelong love of reading to children by parents and those who work with children.

Reading opens up new knowledge and worlds for children to imagine and explore and share. In my case, it also shaped the person I was to become. To this day, my reading habits and preferences are part of what identifies me. What we recommend for children to read can also greatly influence their lives. My cousin Lesley is 13 years younger than me and when she was a child, I gave her lots of books to read, books that reflected my personal taste. Oz, Greek mythology, Andrew Lang’s Colored Fairy books…then Narnia, Middle-Earth, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising Sequence…followed by Pern, Shannara, and David Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series among many, many others in that vein that I could throw at her. All this had a trickle down effect on her younger brothers, too! Lesley is now a professor, and she remains an avid reader. We share very similar tastes in books and now ask each other for recommendations (okay, so she didn’t care for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m still working on changing that…).

Tapping into a child’s passion for reading is immensely rewarding, but I have also learned to rein in my enthusiasm when needed. My 14-year-old niece doesn’t share the same fervor for books, so I think it important not to push too hard lest she starts finding it a chore. I can only hope as that as she gets older, she grows to enjoy “reading for fun” more!

The Relevancy of Libraries in Today’s Digital World

digital world background

Much has been said, and continues to be said, about how libraries are transforming themselves to remain relevant in today’s information-rich and technology-driven society. User-centered planning, services, and collection development; innovative library spaces; remote access to resources; and social media participation – these are only a few of the responses to the internet age that are reshaping the 21st century library.

Lately, I’ve been pondering specifically about the importance of  libraries as social and economic equalizers in today’s digital environment. A democratic society promotes equal opportunity as well as equal access. It is even more important these days for libraries to provide information  and access to those who may not otherwise have the means or circumstances to keep up with current technologies critical for functioning in many areas of today’s society. Something as basic as sending an e-mail for you and I can be a challenge for others. By providing such services as  free internet access and workshops that teach digital literacy of all sorts, libraries enable many individuals to function more successfully and competitively in our current environment, which in turn gives them more opportunities to pursue. That’s the kind of empowerment  libraries can offer.

I love having people walk into my public library with a new e-reader or tablet and saying, “I got this as a gift but I don’t know how to use it. I thought maybe the library could show me.”

And that is just one of the myriad of reasons libraries are still relevant today.

© 2016 JoAnne Chen