If you know me well at all, you have likely heard me talk about the “Two Ms” that I think are important to the work we do…I usually phrase this as “Maximize with Meaning.” The “maximizing” is often cause for much hard work and is likely to be more obvious: a higher door count, more program attendance, impressive stats. The “meaning” part is generally a bit more allusive…and still it goes deep. Today I had a long moment where I touched on the meaning, and in some way it had shifted and tugged at me and I stand in awe at the very nature of the work that libraries do and the depth we can reach. The short version of the story:
Last week a library user asked to have an appointment with me. I checked my calendar, we made the appointment and I thought that perhaps this was a community member wishing to discuss a concern or perhaps even a local vendor wanting to make sure the Public Library knew about her service. Instead, when I walked out into our administrative office area, I was greeted by a gentleman who wished to share a story of gratitude with me. I sat down beside him and he told me that his homeland is Iran and that he is Muslim. For many years he tried to gain his American citizenship unsuccesfully. He began coming to Boulder Public Library’s public program on citizenship as well as the Conversations in English programs that run throughout the week. He gained both knowledge, confidence and belief in himself. He reached into his small canvas briefcase and brought out a navy blue binder. It was slightly bent on the edges from wear. He opened the binder to show me his certification as an American Citizen. With joy and gratitude in his wise eyes he said “welcome” and “thank you” to me (me, who has been in this wonderful city for only a month). He continued to tell me that one of our strong and dedicated librarians (Laura) who had witnessed his long desire to become an American citizen had written a letter of recommendation for him to receive his citizenship. Our Outreach Librarian Ghada had helped arrange for him opportunities to strengthen his English. He pronounced the library as the very cause for the certificate of American citizenship he held in his hand. I stood in awe and mutual gratitude. This long moment touched on the meaning that we all seek to find in our work as we plow through the paperwork, troubleshoot the new technologies, rally the strong and faint at heart on a daily basis.
As this kind and gentle man put his beloved certificate back in his bag and stood to leave, I was speechless with my heart pounding. “I welcome you and thank this library,” he said. I stood in a moment of meaning so gloriously quiet and deep. This is why we do it.
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