It was a regular, sunny, Monday in May. But for my family, it was anything but ordinary. It was our first real day in the new town that we had just moved to, a small Idaho community that was completely new to us. I was unsure about the move to begin with because I absolutely loved the town we were living in previously. I was giving up great schools for my kids and friends and connections for our family by moving to a new, small town that I was not as comfortable with.
My kids and I had to run an errand in City Hall to set up our utilities and the library is right next to City Hall, so we decided to stop in and get our library card while we were there. To give you perspective, our town’s library is a double-wide trailer. That’s the extent of how big it is. No basement, no upstairs. Just one level of a double-wide trailer. I was not impressed, to say the least!
Reluctantly, we walked into the doors of the little, tiny library not knowing what to expect.
Only to be met with a big, “Hello! Welcome to the library! My name is Susie, are you new in town or just visiting?” from the librarian sitting behind the front desk. She had a friendly face with an even friendlier smile.
Side note: That’s a really great indicator that you’ve entered a small town, you’re immediately asked if you’re new or visiting because I really kid you not, everyone knows everyone and when a stranger enters, they know.
I explained to Susie that we were new in town and without saying anything more she said, “Oh, you must have bought that house across the street from the post office! I know where you live!” Again… It’s just a small-town thing.
We chatted and introduced ourselves as she showed us the kid room of books and toys. It was a very small section, but still very clearly loved and used by many. Then she continued the tour to the rest of the library where all of the books were shelved and asked more about what types of books I enjoyed reading so that she could give me book recommendations.
We left this tiny double-wide trailer with a library card and a stack of books for my kids and me. On our walk home (Oh yeah, did I mention the library and City Hall are only a few blocks from our house? Small town life, everything is just a few blocks away.) I was taking time to reflect on my emotions before, during, and after our interaction at the library.
Before we went in I was disappointed with what we saw- a very small building that couldn’t possibly hold enough books to constitute a library. Especially coming from such a nice, cozy, big library in our old town.
While we were there I was pleasantly surprised by the warm greeting we received from Susie and the overall tour. I don’t ever remember being recognized as someone new in town or receiving a tour of any other library I’ve been to. I can genuinely say that the first friend I made in our new town was with the librarian.
After we left I felt excited to go back to the library, return our books, and leave with a new handful that came recommended by Susie herself. These emotions were such a stark difference from what I was feeling leading up to visiting the library!
Though the building was tiny, it truly was mighty. And it made me realize that being a “good” library doesn’t mean massive amounts of space and resources. A library isn’t judged on how many books are on the shelves or how many storytimes a week.
What makes a good library is a really good librarian that has a friendly face and a big smile every time you walk through the door. It’s a space open to the public to feel safe and included. A library, by definition, is a room with a collection of books. But I think if you were to ask the regular library patrons what a library really is to them, they would say things like, “It’s a safe place for me to go after school until my parents can pick me up.”
“It’s a building I can rely on to have wifi because our internet is out right now.”
“It’s somewhere I can see a friendly face and find a good book.”
“It’s a familiar place that I like to bring my kids to story time each week.”
A library is so, so, so much more than the building or the setup inside. And I am ashamed to say that I read a book by its cover and assumed the worst of our small town library. But once I opened it up and got to know it a little bit, I realized that I really did think I was going to like it here.
Looking back one year later after our big move to the small town, I can firmly say that my attitude towards moving and living here was greatly influenced by my friend Susie. What an impact a library can have on someone! It’s incredible!