Monday, July 22, 2013

Foster the Best Impulses

I visited friends over the weekend in Ithaca; one of them is staying there to work for the summer, and it was the first geographic opportunity for four of us, friends since high school, to all get together in the same place at the same time in many years.  It was a wonderful reunion, but I won’t get into all the boy-watching debauchery here.

The three of us who were left on Saturday found ourselves armed with a set of ridiculous photo-booth pictures and decided we had to arts-and-crafts them into commemorative picture frames.  Cue the trip to the pharmacy to make copies and to Bed, Bath & Beyond to tiredly heckle a sweet assistant manager named Isaac (we love you, Isaac) and buy matching frames, followed by a frantic slice and dice until we had three charming keepsakes for our walls.

One of my friends mentioned that if we hadn’t all been together to put this together, it would likely have stayed on her to-do pile for months, if not forever.  The rest of us agreed.  It didn’t matter whether we had all the supplies and the best will in the world; it would get pushed off, superseded, a folder in the good intentions file.

But together, we had the positive pressure of community, the immediacy provided by shared experience, to spur us to complete our task.  I use the word ‘task,’ but it’s a pleasure--the first thing many of us decide is not important enough to take up space in our busy lives--and a pleasure heightened by working on it together.

Libraries can provide that community and that immediacy, spurring patrons to get down to brass tacks on those feel-good projects right away.  Whether the library budget can sustain the collection of art supplies or participants have to bring their own, there is no price for those primary, invaluable  commodities.  

Market your library as the place for get-togethers of all types to end up.  It could be a small reunion like the one I had this weekend, or it could be the bachelorette party, the retirement gala, the high school reunion.  Instead of leaving the commemoration or memorializing to one person or a committee, let it be the capstone of the group fun.  Leverage the sense of community and immediacy into a way to keep your community’s to do lists uncluttered and happy!

And provide that feeling for those who aren’t part of some big group or formal event.  Set a table aside for patrons to gather and foster a feeling of community even among strangers.  These resources, these ineffable feelings that occasionally drive us, need not be rigidly situational.  Libraries are the perfect place to set up the conditions for the community to thrive creatively, so foster those impulses while they’re hot and stoke them when they’re cool!

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