It is getting harder to keep up with the blogging! I actually visited this branch a while ago, on February 24. I happened to be up on the northwest side and figured I would check out the library in Norwood Park. Apparently this branch is named after one of the chief librarians from the first half of the 1900’s.
This branch, more than any other, reminded me of what I think of when I hear “library.” It smelled like a library, had cinderblock walls, and had the somewhat cheesy “library art” adorning the walls. “Library art” has a specific flavor. It generally is temporary, usually following the seasons or holidays, and also uses any type of plays on words or books. This is why I found the “book snowman,” paper cut-out snowflakes, and the pun somewhat nostalgic. Everything else was pretty typical too. There was a shelf of newly released books which was browsed by a few elderly women. A man read the Tribune; a woman read through some magazines. It was pretty normal. The librarian walked around with a list of books an old lady gave her, searching for each title. She also pulled children’s books off the shelves giving brief synopses to some women. She seemed pretty busy, but she seemed like she was enjoying it. She brought a few books back to the old lady and said that she ordered a few that weren’t in the branch. The old lady corrected her about one of the books she couldn’t find—she was looking under the wrong author. The lady continued to explain exactly where it was in such and such series and what year it was published. She knew her books!
The library, as I mentioned a few posts ago, is much more of a community center than anything else. The interesting thing in our culture is that books, or writing more generally, hold one of the highest form of respect available. Religions and religious practices come from texts. The law comes from text. Language itself come from text. Now, I don’t mean these things actually come from the written word, but rather that we act like they do. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the library is often the center of our civic life. In fact, many libraries are polling places and many also disseminate tax forms. Hanging in the foyer of this branch were notifications about a local election for the ward. There were also stacks of state tax forms. People even came in to ask about the taxes, and the librarians gave them a form and some basic information.