Matt Knutson: Libraries provide valuable information

Published 10:14 pm Thursday, November 30, 2017

Things I Tell My Wife by Matt Knutson

“She’s trying to steal the toy watering can,” I told my wife via text as Gracelyn and I visited the public library. Sera had recently reserved a DVD, so Gracelyn and I decided to go pick it up in an effort to pass some time before our eldest daughter was ready for bed. The library is certainly on my daughter’s list of favorite places, so she was eager to roam about the bookshelves and play at the various activity stations our library has set up to engage young children in the magical world of literacy.

As the evening started to get late, it became clear that our library adventure would be hard to end for a little girl who was so enthralled with the activities around her. When I finally convinced her to follow me toward the door, Gracelyn swiped the toy watering can and began carrying it with pride, just as she does with her stuffed animals. The brief glimmer of hope that we might leave without a meltdown disappeared. The tears were now inevitable — unless we were to steal the toy from the library. Of course, that wasn’t a viable option.

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If you haven’t tried, you should know that it is hard to explain how a library works to a young child. Our initial explanation was perhaps too simplistic: a place where you can go and borrow whatever you can find. While you can take home just about everything in the library for free, Gracelyn had found one the few things she can’t. You can’t blame the girl for trying. In theory, expanding the concept of a library to toys seems brilliant. Parents wouldn’t think they’d have to spend so much money on new toys, and kids like my daughter would be elated to browse aisles of playthings knowing that any of them could be hers to bring home. If something like this exists in your community, count your blessings.

Libraries have always been a magical place, as they contain so much information that most of us know little about. I think initially people may have feared that the internet would replace libraries because we have so much information already available for free on the internet. However, when you think about how you find information in a library versus while you surf the net, you realize how powerful walking past the physical bookshelves can be. By simply having the title of a book catch your eye, you may be taken into a world you would have never considered pursuing through the results of a precise Google search.

In addition to the pure knowledge that becomes available with a free library card, these institutions also provide powerful programming that brings the community together. I just visited the Albert Lea Public Library’s website and thought their tagline said it best, “Working to connect you with the books you want, the information you need, and the community you live in.” Libraries have evolved to host engaging community events and provide access to technology that may otherwise be unavailable. The ability to use a computer is essential in 2017, but the financial burden may be too great for some people to own one. Plus, what good is a computer without the internet? I’m still amazed that you can check out a WiFi hotspot from the public library — how impressive.

If you’re looking for a gift to give someone this holiday season, consider taking them to the library and signing them up for a free library card. It won’t cost you more than your time, but it could forever change their perspective on the community resources readily available to them. As someone much wiser than I once said, “We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth.”  Beyond that, the library allows us to take all quarters of the earth home with us to continue exploring. Unless, of course, you just want a toy watering can. In that case, you’re better off asking Santa. He certainly knows a thing or two about all quarters of the earth as well, and you don’t get on the nice list by stealing from the library.

Matt Knutson is a communications specialist in Rochester.