NPR’s all about libraries

This summer NPR featured a series on libraries, and  I unfortunately missed out on the original airings.  Luckily I love NPR and therefore troll the website every now and again, when I came across  Keys to the Whole Wide World: American Public Libraries.

It’s amazing what public libraries offer to lend to their patrons – cake pans, fishing poles, even humans.  Yes, you read me correctly. Humans.  Why?  Because it’s the library isn’t about access to books – it’s about the connection to the community – the conversation.  It’s about how each library approaches unique needs and responds in a way that the library remains not only valid but vital.  And when people find that the library can meet even the strangest needs, they come back, again and again, so that they can continue the conversation.

People who wonder about the validity of the library in a digital world are right to wonder.  If a library is just a book storage facility, then how will it remain valid when libraries go bookless?  Is it still a library if it contains no books?  San Antonio opened the country’s first bookless library, Bexar Biblio-Tech, this past September in response to growing interest and need for e-book access.  So, is the paper-based book dead?  What does this mean for libraries?

Libraries are quite resilient, and resilience is the key to survival.  However, survival is not inherent.  Libraries need great PR, great directors who push back against the doubters, and great programs since actions speak louder than words.  And getting your library featured on NPR certainly doesn’t hurt.  I certainly learned a thing or two from the stories, and I work in one.

Comfort Heritage Foundation

I love to travel.  Inevitably when I’m out and about, I make an effort to stick my head into historic buildings, especially libraries, for a quick peek.  It’s always interesting to me what remains, the way its been altered, and how the space is being used. Unfortunately my daily work often keeps me in front of a computer rather than venturing off into the Hill Country to get a quick look at these treasures.

Today, with a welcomed invitation, I took a quick road trip to Comfort to learn more about the Comfort Heritage Foundation.  The group and its collections are housed in the historic Comfort Bank Building caddy corner from the library, which was beautifully restored and the interior re-tasked for its new purpose.  Upon entering I was immediately struck by its simultaneously pleasant and purposeful space.  It contained a thoughtful mixture of display cases, drawers, and low shelves, containing artifacts, vertical files, guides, maps, bound newspapers, and numerous unpublished family histories.  Information is available on both genealogy and historical research.  A quick look at their materials showed a diligent volunteer staff who put an enormous amount of effort into its order and care.  Since I was invited and the staff new my title, we got to “talk shop.” I so enjoy chatting with like-minded individuals!

If you happen to be in Comfort on the two days it is open (Tuesdays and Saturdays), swing by the old bank building and poke your head in.  The volunteers will be happy to help you with research or just tell you about the building.  Either way, it’s worth the stop.