Day: July 15, 2023

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Role of Public Libraries Explored in Story

Role of Public Libraries Explored in Story

By Eric Norris, director, Manhattan Public Library

Librarian Tales: Funny, Strange, and Inspiring Dispatches from the Stacks -  Kindle edition by Ottens, William. Humor & Entertainment Kindle eBooks @

Your public library — Manhattan Public Library — plays many different roles in our community. It is a gathering place to shape and share ideas. A place to start or continue your education, a place to look for work, scholarships and grants. A welcoming place to meet neighbors and learn new skills.

Through the library, our community has access to meeting and study rooms, computers with printers and internet and Wi-Fi access at no cost. You’ll still find books, music, movies, games, magazines and newspapers openly available and accessible to explore. Come in and you’ll discover most of those traditional resources have evolved into digital formats you can use.

The public library is a place and resource for our entire community to have direct access to information, education and recreation, free-of-charge.

Not surprisingly, there are many books that explore the impact a public library has on its community, the people who frequent libraries and the people who work in them.

Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library” by Wayne A. Wiegand, uses newspapers and newsletters to trace the history of public libraries. Wiegand explores the meaningful contributions to the library profession by everyday patrons and historical people of note. He even offers one example of a Buhler, Kansas, woman who turned an abandoned gas station into library in 1936.

In her book, “The Library Book,” Susan Orlean writes of the 1986 fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Central Library. The fire was suspected almost immediately as arson, but remains yet unsolved. Orlean investigates the circumstances of the alleged crime along our connection to the books many read. Each of 32 “Library Book” chapters start with a short bibliography of four titles that act as a reader’s advisory to further explore the ideas presented in each chapter.

For the curious, there are plenty of “frontline” books by or about those of us who make librarianship our livelihood.

One  lose to home is “Librarian Tales” by Kansas librarian William Ottens. The “public” can sometimes be challenging to work with and, as a result, librarians often have funny tales about life in the stacks. Ottens has a very sharp eye for the interesting and sometimes absurd and shares his observations with warm-hearted wit and grace, reminding us that the public are people, too. And if you need ideas about how to celebrate next year’s National Library Week, start with chapter 15, “What Not to Say to a Librarian and Other Pet Peeves.”

There are deeper implications to librarianship books reveal, including as an effort to preserve knowledge and culture. “The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu” by Joshua Hammer recounts the real-life story of Abdel Kader Haidara who organized and lead an operation to smuggle hundreds of thousands of Islamic manuscripts out of a land under siege by extremists. This is a story of the preservation of cultural knowledge, and how one man smuggled 350,000 centuries-old and historically invaluable volumes to safety in an act of courage and perseverance in war and terror.

Inspired? You are invited to help guide the future of Manhattan Public Library. Take a two-minute survey at through July 18 and make your voice count. We’re working on our library’s strategic plan and want to hear what you think.

Manhattan Public Library is a cornerstone of free and equal access to a world of ideas and information for the Manhattan, Kansas, community. Manhattan Public Library serves more than 75,000 people in the Riley County area through curated book and other media collections, knowledgeable staff, relevant programming for all ages, and meeting space. Learn more at