Applause for Public Libraries

If you are following my podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud (Look to See Me by Chris Pepple), you can find some of the transcripts of my episodes here.

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Applause for Libraries

Hi, Listeners! I hope you are all having a wonderful week this week. Welcome back to Look to See Me, a podcast that invites you to look closer at the lives of people around you and to take time to hear their stories. I’m Chris Pepple and today I’m going to talk about the wonderful programs offered by our public libraries.

Let’s be honest—a lot of us take libraries for granted. I know I used to. I thought of libraries as the places that held me captive for hours in high school when I had to write term papers. I remember the dreaded card catalogs that I had to dig through to find my much-needed book locations and the microfiche readers that held the microscopic copies of the journals my teachers required me to use as resources. The libraries were eerily silent and often darker than I would prefer. Even though I was an avid reader, I didn’t necessarily enjoy libraries.

Now, though, I could spend hours in a library. I love the educational programs, the magazine reading rooms and the movies mine has for rent for one dollar. I even worked at a library for a short time—one of my favorite odd jobs. There’s a lot going on every day at a library that many people don’t stop to think about.

First—computer access. Libraries often provide a critical technology link for people who may not have a computer in their homes or for people who need to stop in on a break and print resumes or check email.

Libraries also provide educational programs for children and adults, and these programs are often free. Story times for kids and classes for adults can enrich any community. At my local library, adults can attend programs that teach them to knit, offer advice for writers, or let participants meet a master gardener and ask questions about the next planting season. Lecturers come who give advice about taxes or Social Security or making wills to families who don’t know how or where to get started.

The local artists and musicians in our community also join in on the fun at the library. Our symphony has brought musicians to our library to play for families and talk about their instruments. Theater groups have performed skits in the open spaces. Writers give readings, and even magicians perform a few magic tricks for the audiences who take a break from their busy schedules to have a little fun at the library.

In today’s podcast, I want to highlight two libraries that are doing an exceptional job of reaching out to others and using their resources to meet the needs of their communities.

First, let’s look at Chicago’s public library system and specifically their Laundromat Story Time. I found this good-news story in a U.S. News articlewritten by Joseph Williams in December 2018. The article begins by reminding us all of the importance of reading to young children. Many educators have concluded that future academic success can begin with simple bedtime stories and books shared by family members.

But not every home has books that are readily available to children. And even if they have books, not every parent has a lot of extra time to read. There’s a lot of daily chores involved in running a household and raising children. But the Chicago library system created a program to bring books to some children while the parents are handling one very time-consuming chore: getting the laundry done.

Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods have about 14 laundromats that fill up daily with parents needing to keep younger kids occupied while getting the family clothes clean. Chicago librarians saw a golden opportunity to read to these children. The librarians bring in colorful mats for the kids to sit on and bring with them plenty of books and even musical instruments to add to the fun. The kids are read to. They then get to join in the singing and games. Sometimes librarians bring in puppets to add to the experience.

Parents are learning, too. They are getting a glimpse of ways to engage their children and give their brains the boost they need for future learning. Not all parents know how to help their kids develop strong literacy skills. Families and entire communities are benefitting from the library’s willingness to reach the people where they are and to assess the needs of all community members.

Great job, Chicago libraries! Hopefully other cities will reach out to them and get information from the model they have created to make this program successful.

The next city I’m going to talk about is Miami. The Miami-Dade Public Library System has developed an upcycling program to meet the needs of two groups of people in their communities. I discovered this inspiring story from an article written by Ellen Bookfor Public Libraries Online.

Their program is called “Helping Hands: Upcycling with Dual Purposes” and is an arts and crafts program that meets the needs of two communities. The library wanted to reach out to both older adults and to the homeless in their area. This program reaches both groups at the same time. Older adults gather at the library to enjoy social time together. This gathering time helps many of them break the monotony of their days and helps them break the cycle of loneliness that touches many of their lives.

While they are at the library, these senior adults are tackling the problem of what to do with our overabundance of plastic bags while also helping the homeless population. The bags are turned into a type of string and woven into mats that can be given to the anyone living without a home. The disposable bags have been kept out of landfills and instead have given people comfort. It takes approximately 198 bags to make one adult-sized mat.

The Miami-Dade Public Library System and the Chicago Public Libraries are examples of organizations that think creatively in order to bring about positive changes for their communities. They are still serving the students who need to come in and do research for papers and readers can still come in just to check out books for the weekend. But these librarians are also looking to serve different populations and meet different needs—touch the lives of people who may not even walk into their libraries.

This is what I’m talking about when I use the words “Look to See Me.” These two library systems looked to see the people in their communities. Chicago librarians saw the needs of young children in low-income families. They knew these kids deserved to be read to as much as the kids who could walk through their doors. And they saw the needs of these busy parents who were doing the best they could with the resources they had—parents who were taking care of their families and doing the necessary work of tasks such as laundry.

Miami-Dade librarians looked and saw the needs of their older patrons who wanted time to feel useful and give their gifts back to the community. They also needed time to sit with their peers and just chat about life and their memories and share hope for the coming days. These librarians also saw the need to keep tens of thousands of plastic bags out of the landfills and saw the need of the homeless community members who could use a sleeping mat to provide a little comfort in the midst of their struggles.

Your challenge this week: visit your closest public library. Look at their programs brochures and see what all they have to offer. Find ways you can support the community programs they have designed to reach out to others in your town. Check out a good book or a movie while you are there. It’s a free way to try out new authors or reconnect with one of your favorites.

Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode of my Look to See Me podcast and will return for the next episode.

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The Memory Room: A Poem about Remembering

I was honored to recently have a glimpse into a room that held a lot of memories of a family I have known for a few years. I wrote this because I was so touched that I was allowed to glimpse into the room and share the memories for the moment.

Memory Room

It’s the small room

tucked upstairs

out of the view

of most visitors

but I linger there often

sometimes staying busy

with a task at hand

but sometimes

just remembering

the hands who had

touched all that

I filled this room with…

a grandmother who

dusted the top of the chest,

the young girl who

tugged at a dresser drawer,

the mother who lifted

the lid of the wooden chest

to fill it with keepsakes

and memories for me

to hold dear…

so, when I am here

in my memory room

I am surrounded by

the touches of

generations before me

who placed pictures on

dressers and folded clothes

for the drawers and laughed

and cried over items that

were shared and treasured

over time and I add my

touches to each piece and

leave behind my treasures

on the wooden surfaces or

hidden deep inside and

I place items for my

daughter within her reach

and put treasures just

out of reach of my

first grandchild and I

wonder who will dust

these next after me

and who will open

a drawer and smile

at what was left inside

and who will be the

keeper of the memories

I have inside my memory room.

                              –Chris Pepple ©2019

In that Moment

I wrote this poem in honor of the birth of someone special–the first grandchild of a wonderful friend.  I’m so thrilled for the family! I can still remember the first moments I held my children…

 

In That Moment

 

For one moment, my world stopped for you—

all of my worries slipped away

and thoughts of what must be done next

gave way to thoughts of this moment…

the moment you were first placed in my arms

and I held you

 and touched your tiny fingers

 and gazed at your toes

and looked deeply into your eyes

and knew that you

were now a part of who I am

and my love grew deeper

in that moment

as I knew I would

forever hold you

in my heart…

and no other thoughts

came to mind other than

my joy

in that moment…

my first memory

made with you.

                                       –Chris Pepple © 2018

 

Waiting

Today has been a busy day for me. I had lots of errands to run and tasks to finish. As I’ve moved through my day, however, I’ve also had a lot of friends on my mind. I keep thinking of people close to me who are waiting. One friend is waiting for the birth of her first grandchild; another friend is waiting to see if her chemo is going to work against her cancer. My daughter has friends waiting to graduate or waiting to hear back from a job application. As I took a break from my busyness this evening, I reflected on all of the things in life I have waited on for myself or with friends…

Waiting

Waiting…

for birth…

for sleep…

for joy to come…

for pain to end…

for a loved one to step into view…

for a last breath…

for the gift to be opened…

for the mail to arrive…

for the graduate to cross the stage…

for the door to open…

for the judge to rule…

for the jury to return…

for the bread to bake…

for the pizza to arrive…

for the plane to land…

for the rain to stop…

for the sun to rise…

for the bell to ring…

for the dog to welcome us home…

for chemo to end…

for the hand of a friend…

for the sound of laughter…

for the movie to start…

for the dance to begin…

for you to take my hand…

for the waiting to end…

©2018. Chris Pepple

 

Redefining Family

The word “family” can stir up wonderful memories for many people. Thoughts of holidays with loved ones, family photos to celebrate one member’s milestones in life, or simple summer afternoons sharing a picnic or a game. That same word, however, brings up a longing in others—a hope to one day reunite with a loved one. A hope that a family member may change and become more loving. A hope to feel loved and connected to others. Some of us often grieve over the word family—grieve for members who have died, grieve for those who face hardships or illnesses, grieve for those who left, grieve for those who hurt us rather than love us.

When “family” is something we lost or must leave, how do move forward? Do we toss out the idea of ever being a part of a family again? Can we redefine what family means to us or redefine who we consider our family?

The characters in Without a Voice faced these questions as they struggled with the emotional challenges of losing family members and leaving family members. Some quotes from the characters give you a glimpse of how they redefined family as they journeyed forward:

“The images of my mother and father seemed like ghosts that I could see but not grasp. I realized that my parents were now just memories. The people before me were my family now. Together we had redefined home with each place we stopped along our way. We never said aloud that we loved each other, but, somehow, we knew the feeling was there.”

“Uncertainty still loomed ahead, but facing the unknown with loved ones seemed more hopeful. Love eases so many fears. Jane reached out and squeezed my hand as if she could read my thoughts. Together would be much better than alone.”

“I smiled at the thought of being a part of this group that had bonded like family. We were strangers thrown together by the sheer coincidence of location on our separate journeys—different needs on the same road.”

If you are part of a book club reading Without a Voice, discuss the theme of family and how the theme evolves throughout the book. If you journal, write down your thoughts of how we redefine family as we face the changes life brings us.