Thank You, Mr. Librarian

An Essay by Michael H. Brownstein

A few years back a very corrupt and evil Chicago Alderwoman who was more interested in hats than the people she represented, made the following comment after she was given a grant for tens of thousands of dollars and planted trees on King Drive Blvd even though her community was blighted, crime ridden and one of the poorest communities in the United States: “Let them see the possibilities.”

Not too surprisingly, the trees worked, the neighborhood began cleaning itself up from King Drive to the east at first and then slowly to the west. It helped that the mayor ordered the demolition of the Robert Taylor Homes (to the west), the world’s largest public housing project, but the people did see the possibilities—and the neighborhood began improving. The next election, they voted in a new individual because she, too, spoke of possibilities—but not just in one area of the ward.

And so I come to a small town where a librarian struggles daily to show a town the possibilities. Because of him the populous had options. Because of him, possibilities were available and it was knowing that the possibilities were available that made the town just that much more livable.

In the small town of forty thousand, a town of beer drunks and bars and more than forty alcoholic anonymous groups, he offered critically acclaimed movies, discussion groups, a philosophy club, and much more. How many libraries have an adult librarian who really cares about the adults of his community? I do not know that answer, but I know this answer: George Dillard of the Jefferson City River Regional Library cared.

I read a lot of poetry and when I found a poem I enjoyed, I shared it with him. We would discuss it later—most of the time briefly, but every now and then in a more lengthy discussion. When my son wrote a brief philosophy book, he invited him in to discuss it. And when someone felt a book deserved to be in the library, he worked hard to make sure that book made it into the library—budget constraints be dammed.

George retired last week and he will be missed. But I wanted to thank him first for all of the possibilities before he moves on to bigger and better things.

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