Bill Nye may be a Science Guy, but he could have been a librarian when he said, “Everyone you ever meet knows something you don’t know.” We often think of the library as a resource for learning from books, databases, and other research tools, but the staff at the Elsie Quirk Library—or at any public library anywhere in the world—can affirm that what we learn from our patrons is profoundly enriching.
The library is a crossroads for people with such a rich variety of experiences and knowledge, one can get an education just listening. We love the books too and relish any opportunity to research a unique question with our magical librarian powers, but a public library is so much more than a warehouse of books and a collection of digital information. It is a place to hear the remarkable stories of your neighbors; to have civil debate on difficult issues; to get spontaneous advice on anything from gardening to coping mechanisms to roof repair; to witness democracy in action; to meet people you would otherwise not have crossed paths with and find common ground.
The social distancing measures that Elsie Quirk has implemented for the good of the public health have decreased the opportunity for this kind of wonderful happenstance learning, and we know it is missed not only by staff but by our engaging and lively patrons.
We are working on creative new ways to ignite community learning and sharing while continuing to be diligent in our response to the pandemic, and we invite your ideas and requests as well. In the meantime, we urge our patrons to remember the wisdom of Bill Nye and take every opportunity to learn from the people you meet, and to share your unique knowledge and experiences with others.