Libraries are a fixture of summertime for so many kids... and adults who were once kids. I remember carefully marking off my reading on the summer reading page, checking out dozens of books at a time (all from the paranormal section of course) and hurrying to finish a book before it disappeared into the big metal bookdrop.
Now that I work in a library I see it from a different perspective.
I see the kids still in their swimsuits, fresh from the public pool, wrapped in towels with their flipflops, coming in to dry off and pick out some Clifford books. I see harried sweaty parents who forgot their library card and a bazillion other things in the car. I see the kid's cart of returns fill up over and over while the large print cart remains nearly empty (reverse that in the winter). I see kids perk up when Ronald McDonald and McGruff the Crime Dog walk through the library on their way to host a program.
Because of the way the library is set up, I get to hand out prizes for the summer reading program. This year children get to collect four rubber duckies as they make their way along the bases representing Bank One Ballpark... um, I mean Chase Field. Sorry, it will always be Bob to me. Our library is also giving out a free book when they finish, plus they get a ticket to a baseball game just for signing up. I tell you... those duckies are my favorite thing. We have ninjas, pirates, royalty ducks with a crown, and a couple more. They have attachments so that the kids can wear them on the lanyards we hand out. Kids love to collect things, don't they? I love watching siblings especially. Some brothers or sisters will get exactly the same thing as their siblings... some will get the exact opposite... some will ask for four of the same duck. (It's gotta be good protection to have four ninja rubber duckies on your lanyard, don't you think?)
I love the subtle shift of the seasons at the library. From taking down the winter holiday decorations to saying goodbye to snowbirds to setting up the summer reading programs to the last minute rush at the end of summer for books kids were supposed to be reading all summer... back into school, then fall break and Halloween decor and Thanksgiving break, and back around again. What a library means to a community changes depending on the time of year. Whether we are setting up our Angel Tree for patrons to pick kids in need of presents or we are setting up water play games in triple digit heat, the library ends up meaning different things different times of the year. It's awesome to me.
It is part of the reason I love working where I do... never the same thing twice. We have our regulars - regulars who make me smile and regulars who, um, don't - who remain with the ebb and flow of traffic. And then we have people who have lived here for years and never been here. Who can't believe this place has been sitting here, ready to welcome them, for years, with books and video games and DVDs (yes, blockbuster DVDs... the same ones on display at Walmart and Target... here, for you to enjoy for a week, free) and computers and job help and kids' games and a castle and a teen space and much, much more.
I encourage you to check out your local library. Your kids will thank you. And if they don't offer something you want, help them succeed. Libraries depend on their community, not just for funding but for guidance and support. Enjoy your local library.