Sunday, June 6, 2010

Active Love for Libraries (Mancino)

Fran Mancino is librarian at St. Edward's University in Austin and has been actively involved with public and private libraries all her adult life. As a parent, she volunteered in school libraries and helped her children participate in story hour at the public library.

Cleveland Public Library
an early book mobile
My love affair with libraries began as a small child when my Aunt Louise took me on excursions to that marvelous wonder, the Cleveland Public Library. The children's area was an enchanted world on the second floor, entered through an arched doorway stenciled with colorful illustrations, just high enough to welcome a child. I knew I was destined to become a librarian when my Grandmother Brazaitis bought me a date stamp and lined paper to glue checkout slips in the Lithuanian encyclopedias. I’ve always had libraries, from the small storefront in South Euclid to the somewhat cramped quarters on the base in Germany. But the size didn’t matter, because libraries are magical. They hold the keys to literacy and the promise of hope. As we wonder through story hour we nurture our imaginations. Dreams take root in a library.

Cleveland Library (branch)
a good place to grow
It's easy to take libraries for granted. All communities have them, don’t they? Well, some don’t. Libraries are generally one of the first to be considered for budget cuts. In this current economic downturn, the outlook for library funding is grim. Not only is there the threat of drastic budget cuts, but some communities may have to permanently close their public library. Some state libraries will slash vital programs such as recordings for the blind and access to books in Braille.  
Library Advocacy Day is June 29
The message is not only to think about what libraries
can do for us but to rally support for continued funding.
The community library is one of the few public institutions that opens its doors and welcomes all, from infants to seniors. A library card is generally free for residents. The library provides programming from story hours to seminars, literacy training, free reference service and now access to an online world of databases and web searching. We have access to CDs, DVDs, tapes, Kurzweil machines. Special libraries have recordings for the blind and text enhancers. Resources for job hunting are there for the asking. 

Make a poster with
any photo at this link
We expect that our schools will all have libraries and trained librarians to assist our children. But lots of schools don’t have libraries or don’t have the budget to staff a library, instead relying on volunteers. Even university libraries feel the cut. As a parent, one of the most important aspects of a college search is the quality of the library.

The importance of libraries with trained staff is critical in this information age. With the proliferation and ease of searches on the internet, assistance in finding and evaluating relevant information becomes even more important. Future citizens must be taught to critically evaluate information and who better to help with that than a librarian?

Library Advocacy Day is something we can all support. View the video below. Register to support the American Library Association. Stop to consider how communities would change if there were no libraries and be vocal in support of them. Students, parents, teachers--everyone can speak and write in defense of these life-changing environments. We can’t let our library doors close and deny the magical gift of reading to future generations. Begin your own love affair with your local library.


  1. Hi Fran. Your story reminds me of my own childhood. I loved walking to the library with my brothers and sisters and returning home with an armful of books. We all "nurtured our imagination" during story hour, just as you described. The kind librarians knew us all by name. In a family that could sometimes be frazzled (with eight lively children) the library was peaceful and orderly, and the books were filled with images of fascinating people and places. Thank you for this important message. I will do my part for free public libraries.

  2. Anonymous6/09/2010

    Your post was beautifully written and quite nostalgic; it evoked memories that can only be experienced within the walls of a good library. The future would be bleak indeed were libraries to close. Perhaps we need to write our representatives but with the current financial burden facing our government we might also petition Walmart to step up and help support the local libraries. FORBES magazine recognized Walmart Stores as the No.1 most generous company in 2008. I’m certain most of the cities that are facing budget cuts have a Walmart. A quick search on the internet revealed Walmart has given grants to the Chatham, Illinois, the Fayetteville, Arkansas and the California State library system. As the world’s No. 1 retailer Walmart may be the most successful business in the areas that are the hardest hit with library closures. Perhaps we should all petition Walmart and ask them to use some of their philanthropic capital to help keep our local libraries open- if they were to participate we could then be assured that when we shop at Walmart we were doing something to support our local library.
    Their address is: Walmart Foundation
    702 S.W. 8th street Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-0150

  3. Anonymous6/09/2010

    The hours have been cut at our library and I can’t understand why we would cut the population off from such a rich resource of knowledge when we are facing economic decline and are asked to revive our creative and entrepreneurial spirit. The printed word is what separates us the haves and the have-nots. The true gifts of this world, the wealth that can be acquired without the fear of loss is the richness that comes from education and adventure- and what better vehicle to relish the adventure and receive an education than a good book. It can carry us to unknown places, soothe our soul when our life is tedious, teach us new skills and awaken our imagination. This is exactly what we need in these uncertain times. We all need to step up and do what we can to keep the libraries open. Thank you for your inspirational post.

  4. Fran Ebbers7/02/2010

    Thanks to all who commented and expressed their love of libraries, too. The fiscal news is not good, so we need to make our communities aware of the importance of libraries.


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