Monday, April 20, 2009

The Librarian

Dawn Tideman, my favorite librarian, died last month. And I'm really feeling the loss.

As long as I've lived in Oak Park (23 years), I've been a regular patron of the Oak Park Public Library. When we lived on the south side of Oak Park, Jonathan and I took weekly walks to the Maze Branch. He loved the little house inside the children's section. I loved that it was small. I liked seeing the same faces each week. It was great to be able to see Jonathan in the little house and check out the new books area at the same time.

When we moved north to Ridgeland, we were all excited to note that we were a block away from Dole, the other branch library. There is nothing better than having a library in your neighborhood. Proximity makes it so easy to be a voracious reader. Bored? Go get a book. For free.

Over the years, I've gotten to know the librarians there. Dawn and I both enjoyed mysteries. We'd often discuss new authors, new books, beloved favorites. She helped me homeschool my boy. She knew my children by name. And she kept an eye out for Jonathan during his many visits, making me feel comfortable letting him visit alone.

Knowing the librarians by name--and having them know my name--is such a cozy thing. Oak Park may be a big village (50,000+) but it still feels darn small when you see people you know everywhere you go. Yeah, yeah. Cheers and all that. But my branch library is part of what makes Oak Park my home.

So I was very sad to hear that Dawn had passed away after a brief illness. The first time I visited Dole after learning, I was able to have a long conversation with my other favorite librarian, Robin. She told me the long version of the story. We consoled each other. It was reassuring.

It was not reassuring, however, to visit Dole the following week to find that I knew none of the librarians. I'd noticed recently that there were less familiar faces staff the place but had not put together what was going on. A letter to the editor in the Wednesday Journal last week clued me in. Apparently OPPL has a management policy that the entire library staff will rotate through all of the library's locations.

May I just say ick, ick and triple ick? I'm sure there must be some reason behind this policy. But it is such bad community relations that I'm astounded it came to pass. Hello? Don't you all (you library management types and you OPPL board types) know why we Oak Parkers have fought so hard to keep our branches open? We like the branch experience. We like little. We like cozy. We like the Cheers-like atmosphere where everybody knows your name.

Let me put this bluntly: having librarians with whom I have a relationship makes it far more likely that I will vote yes on any library funding bill. I know these people. I know what they do. I know how good they are at what they do. And I want them to keep doing what they do. So I will support them--and the library.

It's hard enough for a neighborhood like that surrounding the Dole Branch to absorb the loss of a long-time and well-loved librarian. Don't make me lose my connection to all of my Dole librarians.



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