Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The Patrons You Remember
I love working as a public librarian. Interacting daily with the public is fun, frustrating, strange, eye opening and often hysterical. My favorite moments are the times when you meet a patron who is so interesting or so kind or so unique that your few minutes with them changes what you believe, what you wish for or who you want to be.
A few months ago I was working at the reference desk and an elderly couple came in. The information/reference desk is set in the middle of the library which gives staff a visual of almost everything going on in our small library. On this particular afternoon the couple walked in slowly, holding hands and walked directly to the desk. I don't think either of them were under the age of 80 but neither of them looked like they needed the other for support as they walked. As they stood in front of me the man inquired about books that he wanted for his wife. She watched him and nodded her head as he spoke and when he was done she added a few things and I helped them with their book requests. At some point I noticed that the man was holding his wife's handbag, he had it over his arm as he held onto her hand. I noticed this because my Grandfather often carried my Grandmother's bag. A sign of love to me.
After I helped them, the couple turned around to walk back out of the library. As they turned they left go of each other's hands and reached for each other with their opposite hand as soon as they turned around. As if they couldn't not be touching each other at all times. They slowly walked out of the library, holding hands all the way, like teenagers walking in a high school hallway. A fellow librarian was standing next to me and as we watched them go, we both teared up. "Oh isn't that sweet." she said to me. All I could do was nod my head as I thought...that is what it's all about...to reach the end of your life with your partner, a person who holds your hand, carries your bag and knows what books you want to read.
Yesterday I met another patron. He was looking to volunteer after losing his wife of 59 years less than a month ago. As I listened to him talk about her love of reading and the home she had built for their family I again thought, this is what it's all about. A love that lasted. A life well lived. It was a privilege to hear the way he spoke about the woman he loved for more than half a century.
I love my profession. I train librarians and patrons on technology. I teach them about Facebook and Twitter. I help them find books and DVD's. But somewhere along the way I stopped being the librarian with the answers and became a librarian with questions. Sometimes I find the patrons with the answers and I'm thankful for my 5 minutes with them.