Columns

The library attracts colorful characters

The Montrose Regional Library has always attracted interesting and colorful characters. I’ve been here many years and so I have had the opportunity to meet some great people.

The thing about being a new library director is one gets to make changes. This is only natural as you are a different person than whoever came before you. Being young, energetic, and full of ideas, I made changes. One man I particularly remember from early on in my career was Mr. Rose. He came in every morning, a little after 11 a.m., to read the paper. After I’d been here a month or two, Mr. Rose began to show up at the front door right before we opened at 10:00 a.m. He was usually the first person in the door. Some days he would just stop right inside, look around, then turn and leave. Other days he would make a quick circuit around the library and then leave. This was when the library was in the current police station and a quick circuit was really quick. An hour later he would be back to read the paper.

After a week or two of this my curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why he didn’t just stay and read the paper when he came in at 10 o’clock? He said, I have coffee at McDonald’s with my cronies at 10. Well, says I, I know you live near McDonald’s, why do you come here first, pop your head in and then leave? Oh, he said, I have to see what you’ve changed the night before here at the library so I can give a report to the guys. I guess I was changing more things more quickly than I thought!

Being accessible to the public has always been important to me. Until I moved into my current office, I’ve always had an open door policy. Now I have what I call a closed open door policy. I keep my door closed not because I don’t want people to come in, but because there is a public table right outside my door and I kept catching the looks people would give me when I was on the phone. It was obvious I was disturbing them. So I tell people, just knock and come in.

Library staff tend to collect regular patrons, people who for whatever reason prefer to have a particular staff member help them out, if possible. One person who took advantage of my open door policy was Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones had traveled extensively in his life. He was particularly fond of Japan. He would come in and tell me of his travels and of a book on a specific area of Japan of which he was especially enamored. Mr. Jones suffered from Alzheimer’s and so I heard about that book many times. But he was pleasant, and enthusiastic and told a good tale. It was always a pleasure to spend 5 or 10 minutes with him.

Another of my regulars was keenly interested in computer filters and how they worked for the library. He was fascinated in particular by the politics and culture that mandates them in the library world. We had many good discussions on parental responsibility, censorship and general freedoms. He obviously did a great bit of research on his own because he knew all of the players in the internet filtering world and all of the new products. I appreciated him because he really kept me on my toes.

One of my favorite visitors was a retired physician. Fascinating man. He and I both read the Economist magazine which led to many good discussions. He was a big supporter of libraries and the whole concept of libraries as democratic (little “d”) institutions as well as public libraries as the peoples’ university. A big fan of life long learning, I enjoyed conversing with him. He would always say he needed to go, to let me get on with my work. I would always tell him people were my work, and I really believe that to be true. Every time we spoke I felt I got more out of the conversation than he did. So please visit your public library where people is our work. Who knows, you might become acquainted with a character yourself.

About the author

Paul Paladino

Paul Paladino

Paul is the Montrose Library District Director