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My Library Story – Amber Polo

Polo, Amber 06 14 ccrop smallOnce upon a time (that’s book talk for a very long time ago) I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin and I worked part-time at the Madison Public Library.

The building was new and everyone was so proud of it. This is a story the Associate Director* told me.

A patron was leaving the library as the Associate Library Director was entering. The woman carried a stack of books and a young child. The Librarian opened the door for the woman.

The woman said, “Thank you. I wish the library had book bags.”

The librarian replied, “We are doing our best. There is so much to do.”

The woman looked confused. “You work here?”

The Librarian nodded.

The woman shook her head and walked away. “It’s getting so you can’t tell librarians from people.”

*Orrilla Blackshear’s award as 1962 Wisconsin Librarian of the Year honored her love and knowledge of books, her professional enthusiasm that inspired her coworkers, her excellence as a book selector, her enrichment of many lives in the guidance of reading, her efforts in integrating the services of the Madison Public Library into the daily life of the community, and her contributions to continuously improve public library service in the State of Wisconsin.

At the time of her death, she was the volunteer librarian of her retirement home. In a feature in the Wisconsin State Journal, she articulated her philosophy, “The real joy for me in all this work is being able to bring the right people together with the right book.” Peers and patrons alike certainly would attest to her lifelong success in achieving this goal.

Amber Polo’s love of books drew her into a career as a librarian.  A greater love turned her into a writer. Amber’s urban fantasy series The Shapeshifters’ Library  is filled with books, librarians, and a library everyone will love. Plus dog-shifting librarians and book-burning werewolves.

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Library of Congress, District of Columbia, 1970 – Helen Zimmerly

Helen2At that time, researching family history, I discovered reference to a letter from a great aunt of mine to the then president of the United States. Curious, I inquired at the National Archives and was directed to the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., District of Columbia. So there I went.

Unbelievable! Staggering!

Stunned as I walked through the doorway into the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson building, built in 1897, I thought, this is incredible! The massiveness of the interior overwhelmed me. A marble staircase beckoned to be tread-ed. Silence surrounded me. My heart stood still. My eyes wandered everywhere attempting to absorb the imposing, surrounding beauty. Look there! Eight foot high Ionic columns of marble supporting archways beneath the rotunda which hold 10 foot high allegorical female figures carved into plaster. Colorful art work with a lot of gilt resides in the underpinnings of the rotunda and everywhere. The interior design is based on the Paris Opera House.

I learned materials used in the of the interior construction consisted of marble, granite, iron, bronze. The original floors of the Reading Room are a checkerboard pattern of of light and dark brown cork with marble boarders and walls of Indiana limestone.

People where walking about or sitting at long desks with green shaded lamps set in a semi-circular pattern studying books and papers. The atmosphere was surrealistic.

A gentleman approached, a staff member, and inquired as to how he could help me. I explained and he said, “Sit here,” motioning to a set of comfortable leather chairs. I did and he disappeared into the bowels of the surrounding stacks which I learned were holding miles of books and paperwork. (Today, 2016, the Jefferson holds 90 million items and 540 miles of shelves.) Tired of sitting and people-watching, I began to wander, taking in all the wonderment around. I overheard a young woman asking a clerk for information on the history of ballet. To this day I wonder why she wanted that information.

Eventually the gentleman returned to me and stated the information requested could be found in the Presidential Papers Collection Archives in Salisbury, MD. That search proved to be unsuccessful. However, that visit to Library of Congress is a page in my life I shall remember forever.

Helen Zimmerli has written for local newspapers and magazines through the years. She was a political campaign publicist for a contender for the N.Y. State Senate, worked for CBS network News, Manhattan, N.Y. She was the public relations person for the bicentennial in Belmont, CA. and currently writes a blog for the Camp Verde Bugle. Helen writes poetry for relaxation.