In recent “Shelf Life” columns, Sandy Irwin, Durango Public Library director, and Shelley Walchak, Pine River Library director, discussed how libraries impact communities and citizens. I’d like to point out how libraries impact mental health issues in communities.
Libraries are instruments of change, growth and community-building. Everyone is welcome, which includes disenfranchised people and those who have trouble readily or easily finding a place where they fit in the community. Libraries can be that one place where folks can be themselves – struggles and all.
We have resources available that patrons can use privately to help themselves deal with what life is throwing at them. Of course, we do this with nonfiction materials, but we also do it with fiction works as well. Teens and young people, as well as adults, work through the realities of the world and their lives within the pages of books.
We also have wonderful staff, volunteers, friend groups and boards that provide personal, caring and informed services for all three communities in Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio.
We hold discussions about issues that face the community but, within the library, we can provide one-on-one assistance to people who are struggling with life’s challenges.
It’s easy to talk about the books we’ve read, our favorite authors or movies we love, but it’s much more difficult to talk about depression, mental illness or grief. Libraries provide additional avenues of help for folks who may not be able to find them elsewhere.
It is my hope that people remember that libraries are there for them – as one more place to find information and encouragement along life’s path.
Marcia Vining is library director at Ignacio Community Library.