Monday, July 13, 2009

Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul

There is a library in Thebes with an inscription over the door that reads “Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul.” Every time I walk into the Holyoke Public Library I try to remember that. I want to remind myself that I am bringing my children to a real, live, tangible wonderland. We always go in the back door and take the elevator up to the first floor. We walk gingerly over the glass floor and then boisterously say hello to whoever is behind the desk. Thank goodness for understanding Librarians. We drop off whatever we are returning, perhaps renew a few longer reads and then I let my kids loose on Jason, the Gatekeeper of the Children’s section. Jason Lefebvre has been there as long as we have been frequenting the HPL and has become an extension of our personal community. My kids share with him their latest favorite books and movies, accomplishments at school and have even volunteered their time reshelving books with him. These are experiences I do not think we could have anywhere else. I have lived in other towns and frequented other Library’s but HPL will always be my favorite.

Perhaps that will help you understand why I was so shocked and disturbed by the recent sensationalized media coverage seen on CBS 3. Something terrible did happen last December at the Holyoke Library, while it was extremely unfortunate the offense was reported and the perpetrator caught....] The offense was discovered on a Friday and was reported on Monday morning. I agree it should have been reported immediately and, I agree it was a terrible crime but no one was harmed by this delay and I refuse to allow irresponsible reporting to incite me or my family to hysteria. The man in question was swiftly identified and apprehended. He has had his day in court and the Holyoke Police Department and Court System have made swift work of the matter and the people of Holyoke are grateful that this man will not be able to actually harm a child. I hope Library patrons and Holyoke Citizens keep in mind that computers and the internet have been freely used in Libraries across the country for at least a decade and the accessing of such illegal photographs is a national problem.

This was an isolated incident and I have been to the Library as a concerned parent, I have discussed my concerns with staff there. Unlike the news story recently aired, I actually asked about what measures are being taken to prevent this sort of thing from happening again. From what I understand, the Library is working on revamping the infrastructure of the computers' security and on training staff on how to respond to such an event in the future. I would like to mention as well that any Library patron found to be abusing the libraries free internet will not be welcomed back again. While this incident was unfortunate it was, I really must repeat, isolated.

The vicious and shameful reporting we have seen only serves to hurt the children of Holyoke whose parents may now be wary of the library. Parents will be frightened to allow their children there. A public Library is one of the greatest resources of any city or town and so irresponsibly try to damage or smear or inflict harm on its reputation is simply criminal.

Where else can our children go, at no cost, to be entertained, to fall in love with literature, to borrow movies, music and quite simply, absorb culture? My own children have grown as thoughtful human beings thanks, in large part, to the library. From the Holyoke Public Library I have learned about local events, my children learned how to play chess, I learned to cook Indian food, I studied anything that sparked my interest, my children learned to love the humor of Lewis Carroll, Lemony Snicket and to fall into the world of Spiderwick. We all became Harry Potter fans and experts on how to use the search feature on the computers. My children joined a book club, took water color painting and learned the dewey decimal system. I've listened to local writers and speakers and once spent an hour with the children’s Librarian as he happily helped me find all the books on my class list of about a hundred titles. I can assure you that very few librarians would be so helpful and unrushed.

I am a single working parent in Holyoke, I am active in various local groups, it is important to me to expose my children to all kinds of events and culture and literature. I am also a part time student at HCC. For all of those parts of our every day lives the Library has been an invaluable resource. I would hate to see another family lose the same opportunities due to the manipulative fear mongering and sensationalist reporting of the news media. This Holyoke family will not stand for it.

Thank you,
Just Another Holyoke Mom


Joey B said...

Well... you already know what I think of this, but for the sake of the blogoverse, I'd like to agree wholeheartedly with this post.

Reducing in HM said...

Thank you Joey. I was feeling all sad no one commented on this one because.. no one published it either.

The Library thanked me though.

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