The Library as Kaleidoscope

by Bill Peak

There is always a moment of panic when I finish reading a good book. What will I do now? Where will I ever find a book again as excellent as this one? Having discovered the great gift that is reading, having discovered that, except for human love, life may truly hold no greater pleasure than a well-written tale, the thought—however irrational—that I might have finally drained that well, that I may never again find a book as satisfying as the one I've just read, sends a chill through my bones.

And so, once more, desperately, even a little fearfully, I wander out into the aisles of the Talbot County Free Library, full of hope and dread, no particular author in mind, no particular genre, just trusting in the siren song of all those bookshelves ... and, to my relief, as always, come home again with, yup, three bags full. So maybe, instead of calling our annual library festival “Kaleidoscope” as we do, we should call it “Cornucopia,” for that is what the library really is, an enormous cornucopia from which spills—perpetually, inexhaustibly—works of splendor and wisdom, majesty and enchantment.

But superlatives like these can be applied to more than just books at the library. Think of all that we now offer our patrons, absolutely free of charge: WiFi, the Maryland Room archives, online databases, audio books, public computers, ebooks, DVDs, music CDs, periodicals, science backpacks for kids, children's computers ... the list just goes on and on. Which makes me think the word "Kaleidoscope"—conveying, as it does, the image of something multi-varied and beautiful—is, in fact, perfect for our library.

The theme for this year's Kaleidoscope is “every day heroes.” The fire department has promised to send a real fire truck and several firemen properly suited up for the occasion. There will be EMTs and teachers and policemen and veterans. But there is another type of “every day hero” that for me at least is just as important to our community and the work of the Talbot County Free Library.

Not too long ago a gentleman came in to the library who wanted to apply for a job as a janitor. He'd been told he had to apply online. He'd never used a computer before. I ended up showing him everything from how to use a mouse to how to type a capital letter on a keyboard. The poor guy spent the better part of four hours hunting and pecking his way through that interminable application. But he got it done. Who knows how many children were depending upon that man to find a job? Who knows what good may yet be achieved as a result of the four lonely, pride-killing hours he spent chipping away at that application? These are the sort of “every day heroes” that frequent our library. These are the sort of “every day heroes” I praise.

So why not be an every day hero yourself and visit the library sometime soon? And we'd love to see you at our Kaleidoscope festival on Saturday, June 13, as well. There will be firemen, EMTs, policewomen, veterans, and teachers ... but you'll be the real star of the show.