In appreciation of a small-town librarian
October 3, 2008 · Updated 12:52 AM
Years ago while still in high school, I lost a friend. Elizabeth Romero was my school's librarian and passed away suddenly. At that time, like many other students in school, I mourned the personal loss, but I was also saddened for the generations coming up through the lower grades that would not know such a kind and generous woman.
Just to give you an idea of what this woman meant to me and our semirural high school of 500 students, we petitioned for a school-hour assembly to honor her. Another committee of students and teachers came together and created a Southwest Literary Collection that is still part of that library; a good portion of those books were bequeathed to the school from her personal collection. We wrote poems for her and editorials, much like this one, and printed a special edition of the high-school newspaper. So why is it I'm writing this new editorial?
Well, this one isn't really all about Elizabeth. It's about knowing things and sharing things. I grew up in the beginning of MTV, Joe Camel ads, shoe conglomerate saturation and all the other mass-marketing hype. How do you try to excite a student if their brain has lost the ability to disengage itself from the television?
Well, for one you have to care, not just a little, but a lot. You have to invest so much of your life to knowing each student that walks through that door. You act as book purveyor, knowledge gatherer and mostly, guidance counselor. You know enough about the reading habits of teen-agers to stock romance novels next to Judy Blume novels. You nudge students gently into classic novels, while having a good balance of teen magazines available.
Elizabeth did that and more. In all my grown years since her death, I believed she was one of a kind. I believed no other library on earth had a librarian like her. When we moved to Snoqualmie, my husband, two young sons and I settled into a house on a hill. I was anxious to find a library. I soon realized there was a library in Snoqualmie. We drove through our new community on the way to that library. We took notice of the train depot and small shops along the road. It was a town much like the town I had grown up in. We went up to the front door at 11 a.m. on a Monday morning and the doors were closed. I was frustrated. I lambasted such a town for having a library with such horrid hours. I drove away thinking that this town doesn't care much for books. Boy, was I wrong.
A few weeks passed and I decided to try again. This time I confirmed the library hours before heading out. We walked into those open doors that day and were greeted by a little white-headed woman with a big smile. "Hi folks, I'm Loretta Herman. Welcome to our library."
Wow, I was home. Many of you reading this surely know that Loretta Herman recently retired from this wonderful little library. I've got to tell you, though, that her friendly spirit is still there. When I walked into that library, it wasn't just Loretta who greeted me. There were even more smiling faces.
If you've been to the Snoqualmie Library, you undoubtedly know what I am talking about. If you haven't, you are truly missing something refreshing. A library filled with wonderful librarians and a local stew of wonderful patrons, too.
The King County Library System has a gem in Snoqualmie. We are moving to a society that believes people want their lives simplified. This may be true, but, does that mean automated check-out lines, large libraries with everything in one place and an automated librarian to help you find it?
I'm for the personal touch myself, where everyone is treated with dignity. With that in mind, I want to thank the staff at Snoqualmie for helping me believe that Elizabeth wasn't an apparition. That there still are, and always should be, people like her to emulate and workplaces like that to come back to.