A child’s first visit to a library may very well set the tone for the child’s adult relationship with the library. As public library workers, it is part of our responsibility to foster a positive relationship between patrons and libraries, and all the services they provide.
It is not unheard of to see a patron walk out of a library because they feel uncomfortable within that space, or to see a child hesitate to pull out a book because they feel lacking in their reading skills. Everyone can feel insecure in an unfamiliar space, but with patience and careful coaxing it can become a pleasant new experience.
Working in an environment where we are constantly interacting with patrons from all walks of life, we are familiar with those that have stepped inside a library countless of times and see the library as a second home. They know exactly where to find reference help, where the nearest water fountain is and of course where their favorite mystery book is located. With patrons completely comfortable with their branch, we sometimes have to take a step back and think of how they were able to get there. How were they able to develop those likes? What made them want to keep coming back? For many, it was that very first visit as a child that influenced their ongoing relationship with libraries.
Do you remember your very first visit to a library? As adults we are comfortable with who we are, what movies we like, what music we like and what our favorite books are. Yet, we hardly give much thought to how we came to those likes, and of how we’ve been collecting memories and experiences as we’ve been growing up.
Recently while at my library, I overheard two little girls discussing their search for their favorite book. One asked the other what the title was and the other answered that she didn’t have one yet, but knew that it would be somewhere in the library. Listening to them made think back on my own relationship with libraries, especially public libraries, and I realized that my own love for them had a lot to do with those very first visits to my nearest branch. I remember feeling incredibly welcomed, and noticing that the stacks were colorful and inviting. The librarian gave me the ease to browse without any pressure. Some of my warmest childhood memories were within library walls and pages of books, but it was thanks to the space and encouragement that was provided to me by welcoming library workers that I had the opportunity to create a healthy relationship with libraries.
As I heard this child say that she was looking for her favorite book and even though she didn’t have one yet, reminded me again of how wonderful a library is. Libraries are much more than shelves filled with books, they’re a space for a child to create a memory, to provide an opportunity to find their favorite book and to learn about themselves. We shouldn’t forget that, because who knows if a simple visit by a child to their library will become one of their warmest memories or favorite places in their lives. You never know.