by James Hill
Originally published on the Chillicothe Gazette website on November 23, 2019.
Every year, my family makes a Thanksgiving Tree. It’s just a piece of brown paper cut into a tree shape and taped to the wall. Whenever someone visits, we ask them to write something they’re thankful for on a paper leaf and add it to the tree. By the end of the month we have a full display.
There are always the broad groupings like friends, family, health. But there are specific things, too: homages to pets or circumstances and situations. One friend always writes “Pickles.” Sometimes, it’s the little things that inspire gratitude.
This year I added a leaf that says: “The Caring Professions.” That can be everyone from teachers and nurses, fire fighters and police officers to doctors and social workers, community volunteers and crossing guards.
Almost no one works in a caring profession for the money. For some it might have started as “just a job,” but a caring career affects one in profound ways. Would they still do the job for no salary? I would argue that most do – to some extent – with those extra weekend hours no one is tracking, or that 11 p.m. phone call, or a quick email that doesn’t fit the 9-to-5 schedule.
Of course my favorite caring professionals are librarians. You’d be hard-pressed to find another group of folks who make a difference every day. One of the most important parts of my job as library director is to support their efforts through policies and procedure changes. How can we make our interactions across the front desk more positive? Which services can we offer to benefit the most people? Are we involved in the communities we serve? What can make the library more welcoming and safe?
Several things come to mind that we’ve changed over the past couple of years: going fine free, expanding our Outreach programming, improving and remodeling locations, increasing online resources, providing opportunities to staff for continuing education, and more.
One of the things I’m most proud of this year is our snack program. We recognized that the library is a gathering spot for a lot of kids and teens after school. However, a group of 12-year olds can cause a lot of noise and sometimes discord between them and the patrons who still expect the library to be a quiet spot. So, how could we engage and even reward them for making the great decision of spending time at the library?
We started the snack program (generously funded this year through grants from First Capital Rotary and the Burton Stevenson Fund) as a chance to have a positive interaction with the younger patrons. If they’re coming to the library directly after school, chances are they haven’t eaten since lunch. And if they’re staying until 8 p.m., we know they’re hungry, hence the occasional discord. So, we keep a basket at the front desk. Staff are encouraged to offer each kid or teen a free snack (a granola bar, crackers, whatever we have that week). Make it positive. Smile. The kids are genuinely grateful and library staff are creating positive relationships that help build trust amongst our next generation of users.
That is something to be thankful for.