From the President

by Michelle Young, NYLA President

Connecting to the Community: A story about trust

Opportunities present themselves when they are supposed to happen and it is important to take the time to understand why, to participate, to learn, grow, and change. Trust in yourself and trust that taking risks is important to growth. I truly believe that things happen for a reason, that people meeting is not by happenstance, and that relationships and engagements matter. I have been writing over the last many months about opportunities for networking, succeeding in the profession, pushing your comfort limits and more. Today, I want to share a story, not one of libraries but of the importance of communities and giving back.  The experience was very important for my own growth.

Imagine someone told you to show up and get on a bus.  You don’t know where you are going, it will only be for a few hours.  Could you do it?  Would you? Are you willing to take a chance and spend some of you time with strangers at the risk of making new friends and having new experiences?

As many of you are aware, in addition to my career as a library director, I also co-own a horse farm and holistic healing center with Rick, my husband called Natural Horse Lover Farm, LLC.  Please stay with me, there is a point to me telling you this, I know I am talking horses but with purpose in mind. In June, I received a request from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe Center for the Aging. They shared with me that they have a program, “Trip to Nowhere.”  The concept is quite simple.  The elders are only asked to trust in the process and get on the bus.  They would know the date of their adventure but not where they were headed, and it could be anywhere! These events happen once a month. This “trip to nowhere” program was designed as an exercise for the elderly to leave their comfort zone, trust in people, and potentially go somewhere new. The other reason for this program was to get the elders out of their homes in a community environment, to enrich and enhance their lives. (Sounds a lot like what people experience in a library, right?)

Fast forward to July.  We knew a group was coming but had no idea how many would get on the bus. We also had to trust in the process as set-up took hours and man power. We were delighted to have 17 people attend our event. It seemed like the stream of people getting off the bus was never ending, as were their smiles as they were delighted at the destination. The elders and Center staff were given a tour of the farm which allowed them to understand our philosophy, the building of the facility and grounds, and of course, they met the animals (horses, chickens, and our Great Dane, Morgan). After the tour, our guests took their seats in our indoor arena,  to enjoy a lecture about equine psychology while watching a demonstration with 5 very different horses. They were about to make the connections between content and example, they enjoyed the antics of the animals, they enjoyed a day of trust and rejuvenation. Many questions were asked and answered throughout their two hour visit.  People laughed, people reconnected with their memories from decades past, they connected with us and our animals but also with one another. It was an enriching day for our  visitors and ourselves. They plan to make it an annual pilgrimage to which we wholeheartedly agreed. To this day, I am moved by the experience.  The energy and outcome impacted me deeply. It reminded me of how important it is to connect with the community and those not in my regular circles.  (A special thanks to my husband, niece, and my student for their hard work helping make this event happen and a success.)

You are probably wondering why I am telling you this story.  You are likely questioning what it has to do with libraries. The experiences and the fact that people just got on the bus reminded me of my push to you all to get on the plane. The trust that the elders showed to their community center was amazing to me.  The work the center is doing to me, impressive. When you get on the plane and trust in the process, I am so proud! When you trust yourself to leave your comfort zone, amazing things happen. When you try something new and create unique programs not knowing if anyone will join you at your library, you are incredible. Your strength, wisdom, and drive enviable.

Libraries are the center of communities in all spheres, academic, public, school, and specials. We ask our clientele to trust in our judgment in how we manage our budgets to support them, in our ability to lead and be strategic, they trust that libraries are places that are welcoming and safe, they trust that we are the experts and are there to help no matter what. Can you see the theme here?  The Center for the Aging much like libraries truly impacts people on many human levels.  Be proud of the work you do, the impact you are making can be life changing, impactful beyond what you see, your work is vital and important.  Consider partnering with entities like the one I have written about - why not?  We often partner with other libraries, why not have partners all around our regions, community partners? There is no reason to say no. All library types can participate in this type of activity - you must be creative and think outside the box, leave your silo, make new connections! This is my homework to you, find a partner in the community you serve and create something extraordinary. All libraries are powerful and together with others, even moreso!