Greetings from Risnjak
By Robert Drake
I am, at the time of this writing, sitting at a hotel bar in the Croatian town of Crni Lug, which is mostly, but not entirely, in the middle of nowhere. Travel is a special thing, however, and towns like this tend to encourage the sorts of questions that prompt a sharing stories - questions like, why are you here?, what do you do?, and are there more of you coming?
“No,” I respond reassuringly, “There aren't.”
In regards to the first two questions, I'm invariably "here" because it was between two other places, and as for what I do…I'll, uh, get back to you...
Truth is, I've never had a good answer for what "I" do exactly and it doesn't help that mentioning IT immediately outs oneself as either an evil wizard or fairy geek mother depending on whether rebooting their computer actually worked or not.
Instead I'm more likely to mumble something about libraries, paperwork, so many people, there’s a lot to it, you see. I'm as vague as humanly impossible, pretend to forget the language (any language), squirm and heroically vacillate all to avoid actually answering...and somehow, despite my evasiveness, this works.
At least it works insofar as a single word: libraries.
Nothing else I've said is even coherent, but across different countries, age groups, and liquor preferences I've never failed to receive a sort of spontaneous appreciation after simply mentioning our shared institution. I usually clarify that I myself am not a librarian (try explaining paraprofessional in Croat, or English for that matter) but simply the loose association tends to prompt stories of culture, childhood, architecture, or whatever else they've come to associate with libraries. This particular town doesn't even have one as far as I can tell nor would I expect that any are close. The mystique is there, though, and it’s especially charming in a country that has special road signs for castles, olive orchards, and noteworthy fountains but none, or none that are coherent, for libraries.
The point to this particular anecdote is perhaps merely an extended thank you and congratulations for a long summer of work...or preparation for work as your institution's busy season may dictate.
It also offers, to me at least, a general sense of 'why'. There are, and have been, and absolutely need to be an extraordinary number of changes and improvements made to library land, however, it’s important we continue that evolution not because the response I receive is patronizing or unenthusiastic...but precisely because it's not. Each of the individuals beside me has in some way acquired a uniquely reverential opinion of libraries, but the efforts and novelties that impressed one generation will not always do so for the next. At heart, the appreciation I’ve received speaks to a guiding principle of service that will forever remain the same – the means, though, there must always change so that everyone can have their own bar side memory to share.
Tonight, at least, so far so good.
And therefore, on behalf of my travel conversations past and future, keep up the good work...and ever onward!
Robert Drake is the Assistant Director for Technology Operations at the Nassau Library System. He belongs to both an orchid and jam of the month club because he has no patience for television and a shoddy social life. The views, opinions, and positions here expressed are his alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of NLS, Robert Drake himself, or probably anyone...