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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Libraries

Thursday 23, 2020 at 8:16 AM

Hinsdale Library

My fourth-grader is studying the American Revolution. Which means, our family is constantly being told or quizzed about the American Revolution. (“No, I don’t know the date of the Boston Massacre… Yes, I’m sure that it was before 1776.”)

It has also caused me to reflect on how scary, courageous and amazing the founding of our country was. And, how puzzling and wonderful that the pursuit of happiness is one of the first rights granted to citizens of this new land. The pursuit of happiness is not a luxury or a reward; it’s a right.

The first public libraries were established in the 1700s to “advance both learning and piety.” Today’s library patrons can add technology training, storytimes, video games, best-selling novels, movies, music, and a safe, friendly place to study or relax to the kind of happiness they can pursue at their public library.

Libraries understand that what one person needs to be happy may not be what appeals to the next. There are times when nothing can bring you greater joy than binge-watching a great TV series like Downton Abby or Doctor Who. Other times, happiness is finding a quiet corner to enter one of Patrick Rothfuss’s immediately engaging fantasy books or the latest Louise Penny mystery.

Sometimes what makes us happy is solving a problem. Want to plan a trip to Aberdeen or make pasta from scratch? Would learning more about marsupials put a smile on the face of your little animal lover? Learning a language, boning up on current events, a deep dive into a favorite subject or being the one to create something new—these are all things that people find joy and satisfaction in doing at their library.

Libraries also connect people to ideas and each other. One of the happiest times at the Library is Friday mornings when Miss Anne hosts “My First Stortime” and squirming, joyful babies listen to stories, clap their hands, and smile up at their grown-ups.

For as focused as our high school visitors are when they come to study for finals, there’s also a happy buzz throughout the building. These students see their classmates and friends sprawled out on every floor of our building and know that they belong.

Programs like book clubs, our popular After Dark events, and our “Parent to Parent” discussion series bring people with similar interests together to learn, share, and be entertained. In fact, our February 3 Parent to Parent program is “The Secret of Happy Parents.” Indre Jasinkaite will be here to share the secrets of a happier and calmer life, and the keys to being a better parent.

To steal a line from the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, what’s making me happy this week? Reading Eoin Colfer’s The Fowl Twins with my kids, the grown-up novel The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman, binge-watching the first three seasons of The Good Place so nobody can ruin the ending for me when the series ends this spring.

Karen Keefe is the Executive Director of Hinsdale Public Library