Written by Mia Ruffin, AmeriCorps member serving on the Irene W. and C.B. Pennington Foundation Team at Winbourne Elementary School.
Today, peace is priceless. Phone alerts, car horns, and microwave beeps permeate our world. Escape and enchantment are novel elements in our lives. Spaces where we can connect and fade, find and forget, are most cherished. Enter, the local library.
East Baton Rouge Parish voters believe that their peace is worth the price of a recently reapproved property tax. According to the Advocate, the tax will cover about 98% of the $40 million library budget over the next ten years. Local news station WBRZ reports that 58% of voters voted in support of one of the most critical systems in the state during the recent October 24th election day. The system serves over 330,000 people in a city where about 30% people cannot afford a computer, let alone access to the internet. The newly constructed, centrally located Main Branch Library cost $35 million to build and officially reopened in April of last year. It was built under guidance of the comments from library visitors over the past ten years. Since its inception, it has won several awards for its environmentally conscious architectural characteristics and beautiful premise. The Main Branch Library functions as a community center, park and educational cornerstone. Most impressively, it is only one of 14 branches in the parish.
There is a definite relationship between the EBR Parish Library System and 1CYBR. City Year is an Americorps program that educates, connects and celebrates. As mentioned before, the local libraries echo these actions on a daily basis with almost procedural accuracy. Both tend to enlist people with a fire for exposure and an ire for disjointed community resources. The corps members that travel across town or across the country to serve work tirelessly, and often thanklessly, igniting the lights of curiosity and creativity within and outside of schools. Librarians direct crowds, recommend life-changing intellectual experiences (books, documentaries, websites, etc.) based on limited information (a quick question), and host countless events (movie nights, book signings, Makers Ed Faires, etc.). Both can potentially enrich the entire gamut of their society, depending on the day.
This blog would all be for naught if left without the acknowledgement of the real life application of this relationship. As a proud member of 1CYBR, I'd be remiss to not declare that I'm also a proud, card-carrying member of the East Baton Rouge Parish library system. There's never a day that my Idealist Handbook isn't sandwiched between a journal and a library book. I drive to and from work singing along with albums I have rented from the extensive music section at the Main Branch Library. At least once a month, our 60+ member corps meets at the library for a training session, service event or leadership development program (shoutout to our fabulous Development Team!). Certain faces have become familiar and certain sensations have become routine; both are welcome consequences of community building.
Libraries predate our ideas of a nation, back to the times of the first world empires. They still function purposefully in our days and times. A tired corps member can find inspiration, and peace, at their local library. If only for a moment, they can escape a deadline or find material supportive of an ambitious lesson plan due soon. To serve in Baton Rouge is a daily joy, in consideration of the culture and the tenacity of my people. To serve in a city where citizens openly appreciate peace and access, though, is another ripple entirely.