Reach out and touch anyone: Reflection Blog #3

The Model Programme for Public Libraries was somewhat hard to start delving into –as I’d lived the previous decade like a (semi-)hermit and still stumble socially every so often, thus imagining so many diverse people coming together to build and share knowledge is still more science fiction than reality to me-, but once I let the beginning webpages construct a collaborative learning space in my mind, I was able to closer understand what the website represented. The section on function and design, though, gave a certain rise to my anxiety.

Only recently have I begun to reconcile all corners of my one-bedroom’s living area as multi-use spaces; if I wanted to do coursework next to my snack cabinet (a good *seven* feet from the low table where I usually am), I’ll damn well do it(!). However, just thinking about drinks (spills!) and food (crumbs! smears! small furry and many-legged friends housekeeping as nature intended!) on the stacks, equipment and furniture touched by people who then take whatever traces they’ve picked up home with them would be enough for me to budget spray bottles of sanitizer every ten feet along the walls. That’s most likely in the designs of many proposed libraries already, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another article that gave me pause was “Public Libraries in Europe Welcome Refugees”. The idea of anyone doing what they’d feel is right to welcome strangers into their home makes me warm inside, but thinking of my mother again, it feels the public and charitable social systems in San Francisco –that for decades have been integrating thousands of Chinese immigrants– had overlooked her. After 30 years, despite having made sure to take 5-year-old me regularly to a library until I started school, she’s still reluctant to participate in SF Public Library programs for ESL-speakers that my sister, myself, and my aunt mention to her, and so continues to have trouble finding meaningful connection with non-Cantonese Americans, never stepping far from Hong Kong’s television programming and its accompanying culture that my father streams for her from their Roku device.

Hearts have a wide field to occupy and still be ‘in the right place’, so I hope to read about more immigrant supporting public and academic library programs anywhere in the world, especially in China and Malaysia, whose industries and mélange of cultures have invited, and in some ways encouraged, relocation to their societies for generations.

“The library of the future is an 80 year-old converted train shed” brought me such delight. I’m a huge proponent of repurposing things instead of buying brand new, and nothing says ‘let us ascend ourselves’ than preparing your guild’s next fantasy fiction blog post by going hard on three (or four, five, let’s say six) hours of Dungeons and Dragons under vaulted ceilings reminiscent of a Gothic church. I thought of this gaming scenario because I’m hopelessly in love with what libraries had meant to me when I was a young adult playing Blackjack and Deuces in the back corner with friends after school. Not saying these D and D players can’t be adults, or big and younger kids together (and it’d be just delicious if it were a 10+ people international campaign partially through Zoom, or similar virtual meeting apps, in a computer pod); just that picture the journalist used had me think of many meeting up to play and create. Here’s to every library and their patrons doing all the playing and creating no matter how high or wide the space.

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