Library Corner: Diversity in libraries

Polly Gallagher
Grand County Library District

A library is a community hub. It is the people’s university for equal access to connect, to share, to explore ideas, and to stimulate discovery. What does that short phrase, “equal access,” mean for Grand County Library District? When planning our collection, layout, and events, we are intentionally making decisions that attempt to create greater access to all people based upon diverse needs. So, are we doing it?

I found myself pondering this question on a recent trip to the Fraser Valley Library to meet with Diane of Sons of Norway (upcoming Scandinavian art programs in 2019!).

I enter the library and am always visually drawn to the children’s area. It’s changed over the years but always has maintained a bright welcoming environment. Populated with sensory toys and designed with quiet nooks as well as open spaces for people to gather, I remember my son as a toddler pulling out all the Stick ‘n Builds from the toy cabinet; I forgot to put them away and received a very generous “no problem” response from the caring librarian when I called to apologize.

My eyes move across the section to the audio books. I see that I just missed “Read to a Dog,” a program that allows children an opportunity to read aloud without judgment. Audio books save my relationship with my son as we both love stories, but he is not the greatest fan of reading. Many afternoons we’ll listen to one of the books he’s reading in school so we can discuss characters and ideas without the visual reading being an issue.

Speaking of programs, I notice posters for upcoming events and resources: Nintendo Switch, Colorado State Park Pass, Career Coaching, and art displays — all free resources that not everyone can afford. I wave at Kim from Rural Health Network preparing for a meeting to help someone obtain affordable health insurance. There’s a lot happening today in the library.

All the meeting rooms are full; I take a seat by the puzzles and adult coloring station. I ask the librarian what the machine is behind me and am told it is for individuals with visual impairment – too magnify, adjust colors, and more.

Shiny objects definitely capture my attention. My eyes are drawn to a poster highlighting RBdigital Magazine. This takes me to a thought of how libraries support the environment. We share magazines, download digital resources, donate weeded books to children in Belize, and recycle materials for maker projects in after school programs. A newspaper page rustles as the gentlemen next to me turns the page of the New York Times.

I’m early so I scan through my emails and discussions on expanding our graphic novels collection, as well as comments on our improved Spanish Language signage and increased participation in the ESL classes Kremmling. Note to self, touch back with Emily regarding their focus group meeting on outreach into our Hispanic community.

A copy of the Constitution hangs in my peripheral view. Libraries are champions of the First Amendment. I think about the table in the central office as I left with “The Fifth Risk” by Michael Lewis and Lukianofff and Haidt’s “The Coddling of the American Mind.” I nod in satisfaction. Our libraries strive to provide a variety of materials across all platforms to support ideas and civil discussion. I chuckle thinking of the Jo Godwin quote, “A truly great library contains something it to offend everyone.”

Once my meeting is finished, I sit down to talk with Jeanette, FVL Branch Manager, to discuss ways to keep FVL relevant in a digital community. We laugh about the fact that we are encouraging our patrons to use digital resources such as Libby or the new ticket system for Access Grand so people no longer need to come into the building itself. But our digital materials are a true benefit for the homebound who can now watch movies on Kanopy, download books on Libby, register for Career Online High School, and take courses with and Rosetta Stone.

Could we do more? Always. Input is valued and appreciated. I dream of everyone in Grand County taking advantage of this wonderful community resources.

And, where will you find me on my day off? Tucked into a sunny corner of Fraser Valley Library, scanning cooking magazines while my son is testing out VR equipment or inquiring about what musical instrument is available for check out. Grand County Library District — for all.

Polly Gallagher is director of public services at the Grand County Library District.

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