Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Blind Men and the Library

Whenever I hear a professed library user say in amazement, "I didn't know the library ____________."(you fill in the blank), I'm reminded of the legend of the blind men and the elephant. Each man touched one part of the elephant and was certain he knew exactly what the elephant was from the part he could feel: a wall (side), a spear (tusk), a snake (trunk), a tree (leg), and a rope (tail). Then they went out and told others "exactly" what an elephant looked like.

People tend to identify the library with the part they use. If you just borrow books, you may not know that we also have books on tape, CD and downloadable ones, too. If you only use children's services, you might not realize that we subscribe to over 100 magazines and circulate the back issues. If you visit us just to check your email, you might have missed the educational and entertaining programs for all ages in our meeting room. If you only come in once a year for tax forms, it might surprise you to learn that you can bring in your wireless laptop and access the internet from most areas of the library.

If you use the library for just one thing, that's great. If you use the library for lots of things, that's even better. The beauty of a public library is that it offers so many things for so many users, cradle to grave services, as we like to say, all for a few dollars a year in taxes. Why not look for one new thing about the library the next time you visit. You'll know the whole elephant much better if you experience more of its various parts in person. Then when you tell your friends about the library, you can give them the complete picture.

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