I adopted a dog over spring break. Jeb is an indeterminate hound, sweet, affable, and a little bit goofy. He arrived in Chicago from an informal pipeline that extends down to Oklahoma, rescuing dogs from uncertain futures. We don’t know much about Jeb. He had no people to turn him in. He has no real history. It seems as though he has lived his life on the streets; things like the indoors are something of a mystery to him. Doors are a curiosity, regular meals are a revelation, and he had no idea what to make of stairs. He didn’t know if or when I was coming back. All of these things he had to figure out on his own. I couldn’t tell him. It was all left to trust, to consistency, to promise.
And he is starting to understand.
I mention this because it reminds me of our first experiences with books and with libraries, especially when we are children. It is nice to hear pretty words about access and service and commitment. It is nice to be told that the books and stories belong to us. But whatever you tell me about who you are and who I am to you, I will know the truth of these things through my experiences. If children are to trust that we will not judge their reading choices, we must celebrate those choices. If teens are to believe that their ideas have a place in our business, we must integrate those ideas. All library users will know the library through their contact with it, but young people, above all, will take those understandings to heart.
Just like Jeb.