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My Dad Helped Build a Library

The Hyperlinked Community speaks to me. It is the main reason I want to be a librarian. I want to be part of an important movement or profession that will connect people and communities. In my introductory blog post, I mentioned that I am very interested in the many dilemmas (positive reframe = opportunities) presented by the digital divide. One of which is exclusion. A hyperlinked community is the antithesis of an exclusionary environment or community. The potential of libraries to build community through programming, technology, outreach, and the creation of safe and supportive environments, is infinite. So, I ask myself. What can I offer?  What can I bring to the table?  Jessamyn West’s library talk, “21st Century Digital Divide” was so relatable. I am a jack of all trades with serious concerns about the digital divide. While I know enough about technology to help those who struggle, I also know that I am not the most technologically inclined person. And, with that admission, I know that I will always need to play in the sandbox, and that is okay, because I also realize that a librarian does not know everything, but has an innate and/or cultivated ability to connect people to the information, materials, and to the other people they may need.

In Andy Havens’ article “From Community to Technology…and Back Again (part 1)”, he refers to the book “The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion.”  I didn’t read this book, but I am drawn (pardon the play on words) to this quote from the book as applied in Havens’ article. “Pull…[is] the ability to draw out people and resources as needed to address opportunities and challenges.”  I love that. To “draw out.”  This is what I aspire to. I want to work in a community where I can help “draw out” its needs and help meet them.

Here is an example of how a small library created an opportunity to connect with its community and to connect people within the community to each other. I learned about this library when I wrote my first paper for library school on the digital divide. A small library in Alaska paired with the Chilkoot Indian Association, and with grant funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services created a technology education program. The program taught teens specific technology skills that they in turn would share with less technically inclined members of the community. Read more about the program at Haines Borough Public Library. The outreach potential is significant.

I have often pondered why I have not seen more libraries collaborating with local high schools to build similar programs. What a great way for students to complete volunteer service hours. At least two local community libraries in my area are located next to senior living buildings. I can’t get past the potential community connections. Did you ever hear of the Cyber Senior documentary? This is a great example of connecting people and meeting needs. Here is the trailer.

Oh. Why is the title of my blog post, My Dad Helped Build a Library?  Because, my dad did help build a library. He was an electrician who helped build the library in the community where he raised his family. He was very proud of that fact. My parents loved the library. They found great value and great solace in its walls. resources, and programs. When I had the opportunity to work in that library, my father would visit me and point out all the lights he installed. I think he had forgotten that he showed me those installations when I was a child. I didn’t care. I enjoyed the fact that he felt so connected to the library.

Philip & Kitty Braus in 1956–the same year they moved to Deerfield, Illinois. My father helped build the Deerfield Public Library in 1971.

It has been 12 years since my father passed away. My mother lives in a new community and frequents a different library. Amy Stoll’s article, “The Healing Power of Libraries” was so spot on for me as she connected me to the love of my current hometown library and the memories of my childhood library. Deerfield Library was recently renovated. I have not been inside since the completion of the renovations. To be honest, I am a little afraid. I am afraid that the lights my father was so proud of are gone. One thing that will never be gone is my connection with libraries. The connection nurtured by my parents.

These days, my husband and I often take an evening stroll through our town. We stop at the library to check out movies, CDs, or books. We love to see how it is hopping. Never a dull moment. I hope that others (those who don’t or rarely visit the library) will stop by and see what’s available.  And, if they don’t, I hope I will be part of a solution to the disconnect.






Hagel, J., Brown, J. S., & Davison, L. (2010). The power of pull: How small moves, smartly made, can set big things in motion. New York: Basic Books.


  1. Hi Sara,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Your statement about knowing “enough about technology to help those who struggle”, while not being the most technologically inclined is exactly how I feel at work and I’m a technical assistant! I’m the go to girl when patrons have technical questions and I love helping them but as soon as I approach them I often get the “so you’re the expert” comment and I instantly feel pressure. I usually tell them right away that I am no expert and that I can’t guarantee anything but that we can work together to figure it out. It eases the pressure a bit for me, but like you said, librarians have the ability to connect patrons with the information they’re in search for or with the tools to get them on their way.

    I also wonder why we don’t see more libraries connecting with and utilizing high school students. They’re a great resource and a smart group who were brought up in this tech era and would do wonders helping out those who are struggling with technology. They would be great to libraries for other reasons too. We just opened up our Maker-space a few months ago with some pretty decent software for the public to explore and use, but we’ve noticed it’s tough to get the word out about it. I just think it would be awesome if we could get high school students to come in and find ways to advertise the space, like making a how-to video to use one of the software’s for us to advertise and in return give these students volunteer hours. Getting teens to come to the library in large numbers is a tough one but even if we can just get a few for now, we can eventually start something worthwhile.

    And last, it’s an amazing achievement for someone to help build a structure so important to the people. I think it’s wonderful you’re father helped build a library and I thank him for it. I am sorry for your loss and I totally understand your fear of going back to the library he helped build after its renovation. I too lost my father. He passed away 7 years ago and it was our public library that taught him how to use the computer. I can still vividly remember how his hands use to hover over the mouse and how he use to slowly approach and navigate the infinite amount of information on the web with amazement. I miss that and every time I help an older individual maneuver their way to find information online, I think of him and I remind myself how important our jobs are and how much other folks rely on us.

    Thank you for your post 🙂

  2. Hello Rowan, I am so sorry it took me so long to post your comment. I am just getting over the flu. It started last Thursday, and I am just feeling better today. I worked hard to get all my readings done and make this blog post. I literally typed it out with a 102.5 temp. I was a bit foggy. Needless to say, I have a lot of catching up to do.

    Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate them. I think it is great that your library has opened its maker-space. I, too, think that teens are an under-utilized commodity. I would love to run a cooperative program with a local high school to see if more teens could devote volunteer hours to the community library. I think the potential is great!! I am sorry about your dad. I imagine you miss him as much as I miss mine. My dad toyed with the computer, but he never got a chance to dive in. I think he would have been an avid Facebook user. I love the idea of the Cyber-Seniors. I think the outreach is amazing, and using teens with seniors is so genius. They looked like they had fun and learned a lot from each other. I am not currently working in a library, but I volunteer at my local library whenever I can. When I am finished with my degree, I hope to land a part-time job at a small public library. Thank you again for your comments! 🙂

  3. Sorry to hear of your flu. Hope you are feeling loads better! I think it’s great you’re volunteering at your local library and I do hope you land the the perfect library job. Libraries love when you show initiative and you’re actively volunteering with them and getting your degree. I wish you the best of luck!! Looking forward to reading your future posts…

  4. @selatham The photo of your parents on their wedding day and the story you shared is very special. it illustrates all the present day talk about “buy in” – how can we help users feel ownership or proud of the library. It might not be as hands on as your father but engaging via any way we can helps build those in roads.

    There is something very beautiful to me about an old photograph and the meaning you shared.

  5. Dear Sara (@selatham), your post was so engaging. Your call to serve your community was inspiring. Connecting people to information is also my gift. I know a little about a lot, and just enough to be able to get customers to the information they need. I like that you said that you have to continue to”play in the sandbox”. I totally feel the same way! Knowing that I don’t know all that much enables me to be humble enough to ask for help and seek answers beyond myself.
    The beautiful story of your dad and mom developing your love of the library made my heart glad. The tangible bridge of your father’s work on the library and your future work in the library was poetic. Thank you for sharing that.

  6. @michael and @veronicamanthei Thank you for your comments! I am enjoying this class and the work of my fellow students. Can’t be happier about being part of this integral library movement! 🙂 I don’t know why, but this is very emotional for me. The connection to community and people–individually–is so important. Even though I am an introvert, I value community so much!!! This class makes me happy!

  7. @selatham Your post was wonderful to read. Those connections with your father are so special. Even if the lights are different now, just remember that someone else might now have a dad who can tell his little girl that he helped update the library. Pass it on.

  8. Sara, your post was just wonderful! Thank you so much for the sincerity of your post. I completely understand your emotional and happy feelings regarding being able to offer a library space and place for the community where members can engage and connect with each other to access information and knowledge. I work as an adult library assistant and thrive everyday on being able to assist patrons in accomplishing their informational needs. Every time a patron expresses gratitude for the library and what we are able to offer them I’m always so happy that we can do this for them, and for the whole community of users. And I certainly agree with you that this is an inspiring class. Each module has amazing information to be inspired by and learn from. Thanks so much!

  9. @selatham I feel the same inspiration that you are talking about! Your enthusiasm is reflected in your post and I’m eager to see all that you will accomplish. This class makes me happy too! 🙂 Cyberhugs from LasVegas!

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