by David Healey
The recently released film, “The Public,” dramatizes an imagined standoff between altruistic staff and patrons of the Cincinnati Public Library on one side and self-interested government officials on the other. The film brings some positive attention to libraries at a time when some might wonder why we need them at all in the age of the internet.
You won’t find Emilio Estevez or Alec Baldwin, two stars of that recent film, stamping due dates at the Cecil County Public Library system. However, you will find a few stories worth sharing. For me, working at the library has been an eye-opener about the way that libraries provide front-line public service to a population that is often vulnerable or unempowered — the unemployed or impoverished, the not-so-tech savvy, the very young or very old, and the homeless.
Landing a job at the library was serendipitous for me as a local author because I had already spent many hours researching there. Even so, there was a learning curve in stamping those due dates, finding the location of the nearest AA meeting, looking up the title of the third book in Laurell K. Hamilton’s new series, or cutting out paper fish for a children’s program — all at the same time. For a librarian, even a part-time one, juggling lots of tasks comes with the territory.