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‘Smelling the roses’ includes appreciating libraries

Photo by Chuck Slocum
For much of my life I did not really think enough about how public libraries were important social institutions that have long made significant contributions to local neighborhoods.

It is said that in 1956 a storied professional golfer named Walter Charles Hagen advised people to “be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” Call me sentimental, but I guess I have been morphing for a while into the “take time to smell the roses” era of my life.

I notice heretofore-ignored things, and often find that I actually enjoy them. A walk through an antique shop, driving on a trip without using freeways to experience the countryside and small towns, telling a homemade story to youngsters, and the annual Christmas viewing of Frank Capra’s movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” are examples that come to mind.

Increasingly, we travel both domestically and abroad and most enjoy meeting new people. Whether from Antarctica, Amboy or Albuquerque, they are most always helpful and interesting if we take the time to interact. Hosting younger students from foreign countries has also resulted in many lasting and meaningful friendships.

I have come to appreciate the nuances of many things by listening carefully to learn the more complicated sides of an argument and to appreciate the people with whom we live and work. I have tried to show respect to public employees — teachers, police, fire, nurses, appointed and elected government officials — who quietly and effectively serve the public interest.

Important social institution

I find that I have come to especially appreciate public libraries in my community and enjoy dropping by, observing what’s going on and often asking for help for one thing or another. And I always get it — free of charge unless it takes a copy machine, which is 10 cents a page. I gratefully receive — at no charge — books that I check out, even the harder to find ones assigned by our book club.

There are an estimated 120,000 libraries of all kinds in the United States, and about one public library for every two towns — 365 — in Minnesota. 

For much of my life I did not really think enough about how public libraries were important social institutions that have long made significant contributions to local neighborhoods.

Worldwide value

Libraries everywhere have benefits; a survey taken in India revealed a great deal.

Chuck Slocum

Two hundred and seventy adults from the Inamda Library in Pane, India, determined the benefits that regular users (60 percent of those surveyed) gain by using library services, among them: knowledge gained, greater literacy, higher academic and professional success, an increase in individual well-being, and greater social inclusion.

The result also shows that the library is valuable for most of the users as it helped them to keep up to date, to improve their information-seeking skills and in their professional development. “The library is quite a safe and calm place for studying and most of the users are getting benefits of the same,” the report said.

Even nonusers appreciate their role

Even the nonusers group in India acknowledged that the public library is playing an important role in the increased quality of life of the community served by it.

Taxpayers here and elsewhere do pay for libraries, as we do for many other things, but this particular investment represents less than a dime of each dollar we pay to our county government.

Notwithstanding the various social media that are available in libraries — and everywhere else — to all of us, I have developed great affection for stacked shelves and the Dewey Decimal System, coming to believe that a life without good books is like a body without a soul.  

Hooray for libraries!

Chuck Slocum is president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm; he was once executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership. Contact him by e-mail []


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