To The Daily Sun,
Hello! My name is John Locke, and I'm the Youth Services Librarian at the Meredith Public Library. As someone who grew up in Meredith, it has been amazing to have the opportunity to come back to the town I love and work in a place that means so much to me. Growing up, the library was my sanctuary from a house full of siblings, and always a great place to spend time with friends. Since returning to the MPL, it has been my mission to give as many children as possible the opportunity to experience the library the way that I did; as a safe, comfortable place to let their imaginations run wild.
One of my proudest accomplishments has been the formation of a Teen Advisory Board, which invites kids ages 8 to 18 to come and take some agency in their library. They help me pick out new books to add to the collection, choose new programs and events to bring to the library, and give me ideas on how to arrange and decorate the teen space. They also love to come and help out at programs for the little ones, and even contributed to the decorating of one of Meredith's new Little Free Libraries.
With the help of my teens, we've managed to build a library community that I am immensely proud of. In the short time that I've been here, we've grown the middle and high school programs and collections dramatically, and this summer we set a new record for youth event attendance when 808 people came to programs in July, nearly twice the 479 we saw in 2013. In any given month, my youth staff and I run 20-25 classes and events, ranging from morning story hours to a young writers group to our Lego building club. And this is on top of the dozen or so outreach programs we run every month, when we visit local schools and day cares to read and talk about books and learning.
But despite all of these accomplishments, there is so much more that I'd like to be able to offer that I simply cannot. I'd love to be able to beef up our program schedule with a music club or makerspace offering, but can't because our single event space has to be split between adult, teen, and children's programs and is in use almost constantly.
Nearly every week I have to disappoint tutors or groups of students who are looking for a quiet study space because we simply don't have room for that either. I have no good place for teens to come and just hang out in a safe space after school, as their current space is directly above and open to the main circulation desk, and many teens feel uncomfortable hanging out and having a normal conversation there (although some still do).
I'd love to offer a cluster of computers just for teens that's separate from the main computer area to allow teens to do homework and game without compromising all of our public PCs. I became a librarian so that I can I can give back to and enrich my community, and feel constantly frustrated by facility issues that get in the way.
Meredith is an amazing town, and we have the opportunity ahead of us to create a library that is equally amazing. While I love this building, from the smell of the basement to the cozy warmth of the Children's Room, we have to face the fact that this space which has suited our community since 1901 has simply reached the end of its usefulness.
I dream every night of a beautiful, state-of-the-art space that will allow us to give the people of our town a library that they deserve, and we here at the MPL work every day to try and make that dream a reality. All we want is to be able to serve Meredith as well as we possibly can, so I hope that all of you will be willing to work with us to give our town a library that we can be proud of for the next 115 years.