There's an old African proverb (a previous first lady also used it as a title to book) which means a lot to me:
It takes a village to raise a child.
I live my day-to-day life by this proverb. If I see your kids acting badly and you aren't around to correct them, rest assured, I will (and I'll even try to do it politely, I swear). I won't tolerate bullying, vandalism, cruelty to animals, or sass from a child, and I will speak up when I see it happening.
Where is one place you always seem to see a lack of such bad behavior from children? Our libraries.
The safe haven and quiet setting call out to old and young alike. There are no social boundaries, no class distinctions, no separation of race, gender or age--nothing other than the love of books and learning when you cross the threshold.
I'm not a person who is comfortable with organized religion. Before you judge me too harshly, let me state that I believe in God and I believe religion is personal, just like politics. The feeling I've always had when I enter a library is the same feeling most people equate to church. I feel welcomed. I feel at ease. The general silence seeps into me the moment I arrive and I feel transported into a place and time where books, and the knowledge they contain, are a world unto themselves.
Why did I head this post talking about volunteering? Because it needs to be something people do and not just talk about. The people who run the libraries aren't paid a lot. Yes, the work environment is sublime being surrounded by all the books, and it's a pretty quite place--but it's not a job most consider in college. These men and women call out to me on a base level.
They are always polite, helpful and informative. They add book and non-book programs for the patrons to keep the community active and get them involved. They organize reading programs and offer storytimes. The libraries even allow groups free use of the space to gather for meetings or teaching in available rooms.
Last year, I volunteered for half the year at my daughter's elementary school in the library for 90 minutes each week. For those of you who know me, and for those of you just getting to know me, there's one thing you'll find. I don't talk. I do. I stopped volunteering when my health got worse and I needed to focus on getting better. But that time in the library each week--rubbing elbows with the quiet, peaceful ladies who ran a tight ship and making sure every child was involved--meant a lot to me and my child.
She saw me not just donating books, as we usually do, she saw me volunteering my time in a place that held value to me. And I can now say I understand the Dewey decimal system perfectly and children should be happy they don't have to use card catalogs anymore like they did when I was growing up.
Don't just donate books to the library. Donate your time--do a reading for kids, participate in a poetry reading for adults or teens, lead a book club. Above all, get involved. The library is the community center of our future and I'm proud of every moment ours lets me come in and help.