It All Starts with One Little Card
Remember what it felt like when you received your very first library card? Like me, maybe you were seven or eight years old and although you may not have comprehended it completely at such a young age, holding that card in your hand felt like you were holding the whole world!
Library cards have been around for a long time, probably since the 19th century, when it became necessary to register library patrons and to connect those patrons with the books they borrowed.
Receiving your first library card, no matter if you were eight years old or eighty years young, is a milestone in anyone’s life. For kids, their first library card is their first venture toward independence. It doesn’t take them long to discover what that little card allows them to do: they can choose their own books to read, select their own movies to watch or their own music to listen to. It gives them safe access to the world of the internet when a computer may not be available at home.
For the people who carry them, library cards represent something personal to them. The library card is a “membership” card into a civic community, the library’s personal design on the card a personal affirmation that that person belongs to this community. It creates a connection with other library patrons. How often has this happened to you: you are standing at the library desk checking out your books, when the person on the other side of you notices a particular book in the stack of books you are checking out. They smile in recognition and tell you they have read that book and they loved it and proceed to tell you why they loved it, engaging you in a conversation about books the two of you have read and authors you enjoy That conversation may carry you through the check-out process and after, as the two of you make your way toward the exit. You may never have spoken to this person before, or know anything about them, but the two of you have made a connection that otherwise would not have come to pass, if not for that little card. Recognition of library membership creates a valuable and tangible benefit for any library card holder.
Library card holders come from all walks of life, from every part of the local community; from new immigrants to the elderly, from the homebound and the homeless, from kids in foster care to persons previously incarcerated, all belong to that special membership of the public library. They are proud card-carrying members who take pride in their membership.
Library cards actively engage patrons in their membership which is essential for that basic inherent need we all have for that sense of belonging to a larger community.