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Remembrance Day / Veterans Day

What can libraries do for those who protect us now?
I’ve been wearing my poppy all day. In Canada (and the UK) we wear poppies to commemorate and honour our service people, past and present, and what they do for peace and defending our way of life. We do a minute of silence in memory of when the world resolved to never bring us to the brink again, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
The poppy comes from the famous and moving Canadian John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields” that every school child is taught in Canada and that McCrae wrote in a trench under siege in WW1. Here it is:
In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Now we can all value and respect the past service of our soldiers but today I reflect on what libraries can do for living military personnel and their families. After all we are the folks to whom those past soldiers from failing hands threw the torch to be ours to hold high.
Rather than just think about those long passed, what about those brave military folk who are now around the world in hotspots like Afghanistan and Iraq and more? So, here are some of my thoughts:
These folks often serve in distant war and/or other dangerous zones. Currently our soldiers are quite differently equipped. Many people have mobile phones, laptops, blogs, Facebook profiles, MySpace pages, Flickr photo collections, YouTube videos of themselves and their families. They’re more in touch than the letter-driven heroes of WW1, WWII, Korea, etc. Many are on tours of duty in excess of their original expectations. Many have temporarily suspended family dreams and educational activities including half completed degrees, fulltime jobs, etc. I am told that some postings are unpleasant and that boredom can be an issue. Maybe it goes without saying but some of these places are scary. They sacrifice for us.
So what can libraries do?
1. Do we publicize to them and their friends and families that their library membership card is still good for stuff even from that far away?
2. Imagine the long periods of boredom and repetitiveness. Imagine needing to distract yourself from some thoughts that may include worry, loneliness and the need for a creative outlet. Can we collect insights from them as poems, stories, letters, photos, and more? I know that I’d know folks cared about my service if they showed an interest in me.
3. Can you offer audiobooks to download from the library website? Can they use their hometown-based card to access these resources on your website and OPAC?
4. How about e-books? Are their useful links to free e-Books on your website or accessible through your OPAC that let’s them download a good book to their laptops? What about your unique licensed collections? Many times that might be much bigger than the camp library or bookshelf.
5. How about music? Are you one of the libraries offering music for them to add to their laptops, mobiles, MP3 players or iPods?
6. And of course, there’s streaming media and small collections of videos that they could use too if your library is experimenting with online video collections.
7. And as for those interrupted educational goals… Well, you’ve got some pretty awesome online resources and databases. I’ll bet some folks could spend that downtime writing those essays that are on hold. It’s a start. Remember this isn’t homework, it’s keeping their personal goals and dreams alive.
8. Any link lists out there for our military? What’s out there that’s free and easy, even fun, that engages and entertains?
9. Some vendors like Overdrive are offering downloadable games for library service offerings. This seems an ideal way to engage soldiers ‘over there’, especially since so many of them are Millennials.
10. Can libraries offer programs for service people’s families? Can we film their kids interacting with other kids and post them to YouTube or whatever? Imagine seeing your kid having fun.
11. Can libraries collect recorded bedtime stories (MP3’s or short videos) from service people? Can we share these as collections just like we do books? “Hey kid, that story is from a guy over there just like Mom or Dad!”
12. Can libraries collect greetings for local soldiers during the upcoming most difficult times of the year such as Thanksgiving in the US, Christmas, Chanuka, Eid-Ul-Adha, Al-Hijira, New Years, Bodhi Day or the Wiccan winter solstice? Sounds like something so 2.0!
13. Some soldiers are staying connected to their friends and families using Skype. It’s a lot less expensive on military pay than mobile phones! Are your library PC’s, or at least one, set up to bridge the digital divide for them? Can you provide a confidential space where folks can chat easily? I saw one library repurpose their old typing room for this. Sure beats a Selectric display! Simple niceties like charts of time zone differences (or cheap clocks) set to war zone time advertize the service and encourage use.
War is Hell. Hate war but love the soldier. Libraries can make their lives a little more bearable. And let’s help bring them home in the best shape possible with their families, intelligence and dreams intact.
If we do that, then remembering all soldiers past and present will have made this Remembrance Day worthwhile.

Posted on: November 11, 2008, 7:19 pm Category: Uncategorized

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