More Than Books

…a reflection about libraries and the role they play in the community by Stacey James McAdoo…

(This piece was originally written for the Arkansas Times in support of the millage tax for CALS.)

The universal symbol for libraries is typically an open book. And I understand why, but libraries are so much more than books. When I think of the Central Arkansas Library System, the imagery from this old Coca-Cola commercial called “Hilltop” (with the song “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”) immediately comes to mind. I realize I’m dating myself here, but for those unfamiliar with this 70s ad, it featured young people of various ethnicities and backgrounds coming together on the top of a hill with the hope of creating a more connected and better world. And that’s the way I see CALS – as a symbol, hub, or conduit of hope. Libraries don’t just connect people to books and information; they provide access to resources, services, and spaces that help enable people to develop and evolve into their best selves.

 As a young mother, I would take my children to the library for story time every Saturday morning. While the stories were important, the visits…the experiences (of interacting with living artists and patrons from all walks of life)… are what enriched our lives the most. Throughout every stage of my children’s lives, CALS was there to provide invaluable opportunities that encouraged and supported their growth. For instance, because of CALS’s intentional programming and community engagement (that predates Amanda Gorman’s rise to popularity after she recited original poetry at President Biden’s inauguration), my daughter, Jamee, not only learned what a teen poet laureate was – but she became one. 

Years later, when it was time for her to enter the workforce, CALS provided her with an opportunity to gain work experience. With her being a writer and Communication major, I expected that meeting authors and attending special events would be the highlight of her job. It wasn’t. Serving meals, preparing activity kits, assisting patrons with their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) applications, teaching health and nutrition classes, and learning about all the different ways the library partners with various schools and community organizations to take care of the needs of central Arkansas residents were the things she came home eager to share each evening. She often spoke about how much she enjoyed seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces when she told them about the beehive, the cool scavenger hunt around the garden, or the weekly reading sessions they could sign up for to read to doggies (Tales and Tails)! And her eyes would always beam with pride when she discussed the growth of the gardening club and how awesome it was to see the free vegetables being given away each week. I’ll never forget the day she came home and said, “I’ve always been passionate about my activism, but CALS truly opened my eyes to other important issues to advocate and fight for.” 

Fighting for our local libraries allows them to fight for us. Our financial contribution (via the millage and our property taxes) is an opportunity to help libraries continue to devote resources to programs and services that our community needs. It allows them to continue to say YES to literacy and math tutoring for children, YES to life skills training and learning programs like coding, technology, workforce development, job hunting, and entrepreneurship, YES to social work services for local schools and teachers, YES to more books on more platforms and YES to maintaining our libraries as a safe and productive afterschool venue for children. And because even in a time of economic stress, uncertainty and a global pandemic CALS continued to find innovative ways to say YES to the community by continuing to be our symbol, hub, and conduit of hope – I will continue to YES to CALS. And I’ll do so with a smile while envisioning myself singing …

I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing

by The New Sneakers

I’d like to build a world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company

I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land

That’s a song I hear
Sing it along
Let the world sing today
Over and over

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
La, la, la, la
To, do, do, do, do, do
La, la, la

I’d like to build a world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves
(That’s a song I hear)

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
And I’d like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company
(That’s the song I hear)

I’d like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land
(That’s the song I hear)

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony (Sing it all over)
I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
La, la, la, la
To, do, do, do, do, do
La, la, la
I’d like to teach the world to sing

***

Stacey McAdoo is the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year and has nineteen years of classroom experience advocating for traditionally underrepresented students. The award-winning Arkansas PBS docuseries Closing the Opportunity Gap and course Coaching Self Expression: Go-In Poet provide an intimate look at her relationship-based approach to nurturing students. As the founder of the Writeous Poets (a spoken word and youth advocacy collective) and a professional development facilitator, she designs and leads sessions that focus on arts integration, empowering student and teacher voice, and promoting equity and the success of diverse learners.

3 thoughts on “More Than Books

  1. I don’t know where to begin. There is so much hope, positivity, joy, great parenting, learning, etc. etc. in this piece. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

    1. Thank you! The truth is my kiddos have always been incredible humans who were/are a blessing to have…and it’s them who make me look good.

      Like

  2. Melrita Russ-Bonner November 18, 2021 — 12:41 am

    So thankful you are ‘Still Stacey’ and that you are still leading, teaching, and making a difference so powerfully and meaningfully.

    Like

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