Subtle messages are all around us, from simple things such as the photos on cereal boxes to the complex – possibly stretching to include a handful of ’60s songs played backward. Certainly most people who have given much thought to television ads or who have ever spent time with a 4-year-old who questions just about everything have probably noticed that implied messages are at least as powerful as overt ones.
When I walk through our buildings, one of the things I try to look for is what “stealth” messages our organization, the public library, is sending to people who come through our doors. Let me tell you about some of the things I’ve seen recently and what they “said” to me.I noticed a woman who was working on a jigsaw puzzle we had out as an activity at one of our branches, even though there were literally hundreds of people there at the time and she was surrounded by noise and, quite honestly, chaos. She explained that she loves to do puzzles but doesn’t have a place at her house where she can leave one in progress. She was intent and quiet, enjoying a pastime that she rarely experiences. When I dropped by to check on extended craft times that we offered, teens and adults were working at a pace that suited them, seeming to be absorbed fully in what they were making. Often they tried different interpretations of the same concept because they had the freedom to do that. We have a number of truly candid photos from these times because participants were concentrating so fully that they never noticed the camera.At KHCPL Main in our Children’s Department, I’ve watched a pillar behind the help desk be transformed into a giant tree. Stuffed woodland creatures are nestled against it, and at the moment it sports fall leaves. Take a walk around it and you’ll find a poster that shows silhouettes of popular book characters for kids to identify, or go down the aisle and you’ll run across toddler-height magnet boards with alphabet letters to arrange and sort. On a table there are coloring sheets that reflect the theme of an upcoming event and have the time, date and particulars on that same sheet so you’ll have it handy once you get home.Each of these library opportunities gives more than one message, but let me name a few. One that is obvious to me is, “Come in, make yourself at home, and stay awhile.” I also see, “We feed creativity.” More than anything else, though, I see “You need the library and the library needs you.” What value is there in unmade crafts or unused activities, and how much richer would your life be if you took time for something you love or challenged yourself with something new? It brings to mind a line from the song One Drop by Plumb: “I need you and you need me; left alone, we will never be who we could be …” Come and visit the library soon. Stay awhile and explore what we have to offer. Together we will be much better than either of us could be alone.Faith Brautigam is the Director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.