Saturday, November 26, 2011

Part of the library world

On Wednesday, November 23, a small statue disappeared from the front of the Juan Tabo library. It depicted a boy reading, and its name was Shaun, after the grandson of the artist, Rebecca Stover, who made and donated it. The news covered the theft--you can see the reports via the Juan Tabo facebook here--but it's hard to convey what the loss meant to the people who use the library. The statue stood out of the sightline of workers, and it was patrons who first noticed the disappearance. "Where is the boy outside?" a child asked, looking deeply concerned. "What happened to the boy?" an adult asked, angry.

For nearly eight years, the statue sat quietly under under its tree near the library door. He was a familiar face as people came in and out, and a reading companion for countless children. He was special to his creator, who made him in honor of her grandson, and he was special to all of the library visitors whose day he brightened.

Will his disappearance alter library service? Make it more difficult to obtain the materials you need? Of course not--but his absence is a change nevertheless.

Libraries aren't just the sum of their functions. They're also places that people develop emotional attachments to, places that are part of the community. Juan Tabo had Shaun; we still have our blue and gold dinosaur and our puppet show and our ever-growing rogue's gallery of stuffed animals. Cherry Hills has Clifford, reigning from atop the children's shelves, and the puzzle piece floor mats. These gifts from our friends have found homes, and brought happiness both to children and to adults.

Every library has some special place, some special sight, that its patrons look forward to when they come in. It may not be anything you think of as special. I remember the fine polished dark wood tables in my childhood library, and the smell of the cleaner they used on them. On the other hand, they may be fabulous--Boston has a three dimensional mural by John Singer Sargent. But humble or out-of-this-world, the physical world of the library becomes part of the world of its community.

And the community feels it when those small things are lost.

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