By Katie Fischer, Outreach Services, Roseburg Public Library
Picture a Jackson Pollock painting. Up close, it seems like a chaotic mess. There are flicks and splotches of paint everywhere you look, a myriad of colors and shapes. When you’re a foot away from the painting, there doesn’t appear to be any cohesion or harmony. None of it makes sense, and for a moment you wonder why Jackson Pollock is so revered.
Then you step back several feet, and suddenly you can see the whole picture. Somehow, it doesn’t seem like a chaotic mess anymore. Like drops of water coming together to form an ocean, the individual flicks of paint have become a beautiful summation of color and vibrancy.
This is how I feel about working at the library. Day to day, working at Roseburg Public Library is a controlled chaos – a never-ending flow of programs to plan, patrons to help, and books to shelve. At the time, it all feels very separated and disjointed. One moment you’re helping a patron access their email, a moment later you’re trying to plan a Harry Potter book club, and then you find yourself trying to fix the very expensive 3D printer on loan from the Douglas County Education Service District. No day is the same, and your week can go from well-planned and orderly to a logistical Gordian knot in the span of a single meeting.
When I started my year of service, this lack of consistency and structure frustrated me. I was standing a foot away from the painting, without even realizing that there was a bigger picture at all. Over the months, I’ve been able to step back and see beauty in the chaos. Like a Pollock painting, a library is so much more than the individual programs, patrons, volunteers, and books that it offers. Up close, it can be difficult to sum up what a library provides to a community, especially a community that didn’t always have a library. But all the programs, all the patrons, all the volunteers, all the books coalesce into one thing – sanctuary. A safe place for anyone to learn, engage, get inspired, and simply be. Want to pick up a new hobby? Come to the library, we’ll help you find one. Want to make a new friend? Attend some of our programs and book clubs. Want to read stories that expand your worldview? Come check out our collection. Want a place where you can read, work, and simply exist in peace? There’s a place for you here.
Working here, I was able to find sanctuary as well. I found a place where I felt like I could truly help people, a place where I didn’t feel judged or out of place. Within a week of working at Roseburg Public Library, I knew that I wanted to become a librarian. I found my dream job early on in life, and for that I will always be grateful.
However, working at a library isn’t always pleasant or fun. There can be tough decisions, and tough moments. There have been times where I’ve had to comfort patrons who were in a lot of pain, and help them feel like their thoughts and feelings were truly being heard. There have been times where we’ve had to call paramedics in because of medical emergencies. There are times when I’ve encountered rude, mean, and insensitive patrons that make me want to buy stress balls in bulk.
At first glance, Roseburg doesn’t seem that remarkable. I thought it was a typical town in Oregon, albeit a little rough around the edges. But I quickly proved myself wrong. Roseburg is full of people who care and are passionate about their town. People who are passionate about seeing their town thrive and adapt. I get to see a side of this passion at the library, from patrons, volunteers, and community members who are enthusiastic about learning and engaging with their community. This is a town full of heart, and I’m lucky that I get to experience it myself. I’m lucky that I have the opportunity here to see beauty in the chaos.
In the short time that I’ve worked here, the library has taught, or at least reinforced, a lot of lessons for me. Work with what you have, not with what you want. Realize that people are simply trying to get by, no matter who they are or what they do. Enjoy the little things, because that’s what life is all about, in the end. But most of all, I’ve learned that everyone, whether knowingly or unknowingly, just wants to be heard. They want to know that someone is listening, that someone cares, that someone is there to connect with.
On paper, a library seems simple. A place for books to be checked in and out, over and over again, leaving and returning like an ocean tide. But in reality, a library is so much more than a simple repository of books. It’s a place for the community to meet, engage, and get inspired. It’s a place where teens can come and not feel pressured from the demands of school and the future, a place where local groups can meet and support each other, a place where parents can introduce their children to the joy of reading and storytelling, and most of all, a place where anyone is free to learn and exist without judgement or expectations. Together, all of these services make up the colorful, chaotic, and invaluable Roseburg Public Library.
About the author, Katie Fischer: Katie has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science from University of Oregon in Eugene, OR. During college she volunteered with the Eugene Public Library’s Maker Hub and worked as an undergraduate researcher for UO’s Soil + Water Lab, where she completed a year-long research project analyzing soil contamination in agricultural topsoil. Despite being born and raised in Minnesota, she now considers herself an Oregonian, and looks forward to exploring everything Oregon has to offer.
Does community development work interest you? Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon? Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: https://rare.uoregon.edu/application-process/member-application-process