Column Description: This column will explore ways to cultivate creativity, community, and connections. Beyond connecting people with materials, it will consider how to forge connections between people and their community, people and their creativity, people, and other people. With a focus on collaboration and the philosophy that great things can happen when nobody cares who gets the credit, this column intends to provide inspiration and encouragement to cultivate imagination and develop a creative community.
I never intended to become a librarian. Had I known that librarians are renegades in disguise, I would have signed up sooner, though. I like to picture us as caped crusaders defending a pile of books while slaying dragons of intolerance.
But when I first walked into the Sinclairville Free Library, I was simply a mom hoping to socialize my daughter at Story Hour and check out a stack of books. I never expected this little library in a tiny village to expand my world and creativity in so many ways.
I grew up in Boonville, New York, in the foothills of the Adirondacks. Boonville is a wonderful small town with a historic and beautiful rock-faced library building of local limestone. I liked the librarian because she let me check out books from the grown-up section when I was too small to look over the checkout counter (see what I mean about renegades in disguise?) But I was not inspired to follow in her comfy-shoe footsteps.
After graduation, I traveled some and landed in Southern California for a time. Someone wrote that Southern California is like “someone tipped the United States so that everything that wasn’t screwed on tight landed there.” (You can draw your own conclusions here.) I can’t provide a proper citation for this quote, which is not very librarianish. In full disclosure, I am not really a librarian, although I’ve stopped trying to explain this to people who insist on giving me that esteemed title.
When I walked into the Sinclairville Free Library that first time, I never expected that in a few years I would be trusted to manage the whole operation. I was given a place and space to cultivate my own creativity as well as the opportunity to create a community of creators.
The Write Circle group for writers has met each week for eighteen years under my leadership. This creative community has cultivated writers who have written their memoirs, poetry, novels, personal essays, short stories, and children’s books. Family stories that might otherwise have been lost are now preserved for future generations. Initiating and maintaining this group is one of the achievements I’m most proud of, and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned in the process.
Now more than ever we need to use our creativity to explore new ways to confront the challenges of these pandemic times. Being creative helps manage stress and maintain mental and emotional wellness. In this column, I hope to share your stories as well.
My goal is for this corner of the Voice to become a supportive creative community of its own. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories and comments or questions that I’ll do my best to answer in my own librarianish renegade way.
Writing Prompt: Thinking outside the box has become a cliché. Write some offbeat renegade metaphors to illustrate the concept.
Beth Hadley is the Library Manager of the Sinclairville Free Library in western NY. Her library career began when she volunteered to facilitate a group for writers at the library. The Write Circle has continued to meet under her leadership for over 18 years, having successfully transitioned to the virtual environment in March 2020. When the position of Library Assistant became available, she applied for the job since she already haunted the library offering unsolicited reader’s advisories. Upon her promotion to Library Manager, Beth threw her plans to be a reclusive writer out the window with no regrets. She holds a BA and MA in English from SUNY Fredonia, and her poetry has been published in the Time of Singing journal as well as in Wordstock (Poets’ Hall Press, 2016) and Coast to Coast: The Route 20 Anthology (Foothills Publishing, 2018). Beth believes that every person has a story to tell and that there is tremendous value in sharing those stories. Outside of the library, she enjoys looking out the window to observe birds at the feeder while claiming to be plotting the Great American Novel. She can also be found watching Beverly Hillbilly reruns, shamelessly laughing when Granny trips over her rocking chair and does a somersault. Don’t let the cardigan fool you.