Generations of readers

AT THE LIBRARY

“Have you ever thought of becoming a member of the Mifflin County Library Board?”

This sentence was spoken to me in casual conversation on a crisp fall day in a local park. I really didn’t think much about it at the time, simply went about my business of the day. It was only later that I realized how much this meant to me to be asked to hold an appointed position for an organization that means so much to so many in Mifflin County.

Before I made up my mind, I needed to seek some advice from someone who sat in the very seat that I was hopefully going to sit in. OK, not the actual seat, because I’m sure new tables and chairs have been purchased since the 1990s when he sat on the board, but someone who has been on the library board before.

I sought out my best friend, my father, who was on the library board generations ago. Sorry Dad, we aren’t getting any younger.

We discussed responsibilities and some of the skills that are necessary to be part of a successful organization. We talked about the long legacy the library has had in Mifflin County and the generations of readers it has served. It was only after this discussion that I fully began to realize and understand the impact that the library has had on me and my family.

I can distinctly remember as a child riding to the library with my mother to check out books from the Children’s Room located in the basement of the Lewistown branch of the library.

For those of you who remember, all you had to do was go through the glass door and “follow the rainbow” downstairs to the children’s portion of the library. That particular rainbow is no longer there, as it has been replaced with a rather special “rainbow” made up of handprints of young and old readers alike. If you look really, really close, you may be able to find a handprint of someone who may have your attention right now?

It is these very first memories and my introduction to the library at a very young age that only fueled my desire to want to help this organization thrive and be a part of its continued success.

It is also the reason that my family and I introduced my son, Abel, to the library at a young age to take advantage of the wonderful programs they have to offer and hopefully create another reader in the family. Trust me, it has worked so far and I have the library to thank for that.

So, you may be wondering, “How is someone appointed to the library board?”

The first step I took was, I followed my heart and reached out to express my desire to be considered for a recent vacancy that occurred on the board.

This led to an interview with the library director as well as a current board member. We discussed at length what was expected of board members, as well as the direction the library was headed and what expertise or experiences I could “bring to the table” to ensure success moving forward.

After having this same type of discussion prior with my father, I was quite surprised to learn how much has changed. I would say the most apparent change would be the use of technology to accomplish our mission. We can conduct business via email that years ago would have needed a quorum sitting around a dusty table in the evening. No offense meant to the cleaning staff at all, just the mental picture I have of how business was conducted “back in the day.”

I guess I passed the vetting process because I was soon notified that a recommendation was being made to the Lewistown Borough Council that I fill the remainder of the vacated term. By Resolution No. 2016-54, I was officially appointed to the library board and have since been re-appointed to a three-year term.

I have undergone several trainings to better understand how the library system operates, where the funding is sourced from, and the rules and regulations that libraries need to follow in order to be compliant for federal, state and local funding.

Also, I learned along the way that librarians really just don’t sit around and read all day. Who knew?

So that is my story of how a small conversation led to my journey of becoming a member of the Mifflin County Library Board of Directors.

Along the way, I’ve met many wonderful people and hope to continue to meet many more. But I always have to remember that if it wasn’t for my father being involved with the library when I was young, and my mother encouraging me to be a reader, this might not have been possible.

As the second generation of readers in this story, I hope to pass this passion for reading and community involvement down to my son. Who knows, maybe we can go three for three? That is if I can get him to put the tablet down from playing Roblox.

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Benjamin A. Rager currently resides in the Borough of Lewistown with his son, Abel, and his girlfriend, Lyndsie. He is currently reading “Robicheaux,” by James Lee Burke. He is also reading “Stinky Shoes” to his son. This book is written by Debra J. Mines and illustrated by Henry M. Blackmon III. It happens to be a signed copy.

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