Faith Brautigam

There is a place for both gratefulness and grief. We have found ourselves in a season where looking for bits of goodness — a patch of sunlight, a familiar voice on the phone, a roof over our heads — can be a valuable tool to help us refocus on the big picture. Yet, simultaneously, we humans have a very real need to grieve over what is lost. Your losses may be different from your neighbors’ losses, but I expect each of us has experienced life shifts that feel like loss and will cast a long shadow.

We see this same, seeming dichotomy at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library. We love the new ways we have found to serve you, including online library card registration and Curbside Pickup, and are excited to be reopening our buildings beginning May 26. Certainly, we would include those, along with all of your positive comments, if we were creating the library equivalent of a gratefulness list, and every word of it would be true. At the very same time, we are mourning the loss of things we took for granted.

Because our biggest priority is your safety and that of our staff, we prefer to err on the side of being cautious. If you visit in the near future, you won’t find a comfortable spot from which to read a newspaper or watch the world go by, because we are encouraging you to grab and go. We will not have shared toys or iPad kiosks for kids because those items are hard to sanitize. We will ask you to continue to attend virtual programs and tutorials rather than in-person events. We mourn the loss of that homey space where we have invited you to linger and socialize with others you might never have met anywhere else. To some extent, these are tangible losses and, for some of you, they may be an inconvenience, really, rather than anything significant.

The intangible losses are harder for me. We will serve you from behind a Plexiglas shield or from a distance, which somehow feels clinical, and less warm and friendly. There will be more times when we have to say no when we typically have worked so hard to find ways to say yes. Our smiles will be hidden behind masks. There will be signs, arrows, and directives that distract from the lure of serendipity for which libraries are famous. For many of us, these invisible discomforts will pinch and poke at us.

In balancing loss with gratefulness in my personal life, I have found it helpful, at times, to look at what I have kept hold of, a list, if you will, of what hasn’t changed. For just a moment, join me in making that list for KHCPL. Library employees are still smiling, and welcoming, and happy to see you. The problems we need to solve have changed, but we are good at solving problems. Every day, we wake up ready for that day’s challenges. Creating opportunities for you is our very first priority, just as it has been, always.

When you interact with us, it’s OK to tell us what you miss, the things you’ve lost, or the first thing you would do if a genie offered you three wishes. At the same time, add KHCPL to the list of those things you still have. Join us in being grateful, that, in the ways that matter most, your library is still the same.

Faith Brautigam is the Director of the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library.

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