Monday, July 9, 2012

Changing the World, One Library at a Time

A nationally historic event has occurred, but you will not be reading about it in the news. Nevertheless, it was momentous and the outcome may eventually have a tremendous impact on this country. It is certainly true that most of the world changing events that are now recorded in our history books were not initially reported in the news either.

{ 26 attendees from 10 states gather on our farm }

The event was the first Homeschool Librarians Conference. It took place in a small mountain neighborhood in southwest Virginia. Twenty-six attended. Some of them are currently operating homeschool libraries, most are not, but plan to begin their own in the near future. Emily and I, along with our entire family, were  privileged to host it, organizing the two day conference, preparing and serving the meals (on site due to inaccessibility of local dining opportunities), and presenting the workshops. The theme was "A New Vision for Old Books," and we tried to cover every aspect of running your own private lending library that we could possibly think of, from how to find mostly out-of-print living books, where to put them, how to repair them and make them ready to be borrowed. There was information on the Dewey Decimal System, how to design enough shelf space within the confines of your existing home, and how to manage the cost of the library without interfering with your family's budget. This information was delivered to an eager, enthusiastic, teachable group of homeschool parents who are committed to home education and passionate about books.

We hadn't met or spoken with most of these people before and had no idea what to expect. We need not have worried as they were all as crazy about children's literature as we are. Did you know that if you have books in common, you will find many other attitudes, experiences and beliefs in common as well? Jan and Gary Bloom of Books Bloom hauled in five thousand gems for us to pour over and purchase for our individual libraries and Emily and I made sure there was plenty of time for shopping. The conversations we had among the bookshelves, in our library, around the picnic tables on our farm, and during the various sessions was inspiring. This group of mostly strangers had so much in common.

{ we enjoyed not only the opportunity to shop, but to share
and discuss our favorite authors with one another }

So what is the new vision for old books? That, after all, was what we had gathered to consider. Learning how to label and cover books, catalog and select books was absolutely enthralling to us all. (Oh yes, I know we are a different breed.) But the overwhelming thing we had most in common was a heart-felt passion to share our hard-to-find books with a generation who doesn't know much, if anything, about them and doesn't know why they should.

{ enjoying the fellowship with our extended families }

Can you imagine generosity such as this? These books have been collected and are prized by these families yet they are willing, even intensely desirous, of sharing them with other families, most of whom do not really understand the value of them. One mother at the conference has a burden for the young children who just hang about her inner-city neighborhood, apparently without anything to do or anyone to care that they don't. Why? Why in this world of easy media entertainment would anyone want to interest children, homeschooled or otherwise, in reading dusty old books? That is the question that motivated people to come to our little out-of-the-way area from Washington, California, Kansas, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey and other states. We all sense an urgency, a need that those in need aren't even aware they have, because books are in trouble, reading is in trouble, living ideas are in trouble,children are in trouble.

{ liz shares with librarians, present and future,
the pressing need for these libraries }

I've mentioned before that less than half of all adults today read anything they don't have to. Their children learn "how to" read, but do not spend their time doing so, or if they do, have no idea what a truly soul absorbing experience a book can be. Moms in my library admit to not having been read to by their parents. They have never heard of the Laura Ingalls books. This is not an exaggeration. It is not a joke. It is a  frightening reality. Homeschooled children, unfortunately, are not necessarily any better off either, for though their parents have departed from the public school system, they still follow the cultural model that education is a matter of acquiring the information necessary to ultimately hold down a successful career.

And this small group of ordinary people is preparing to do something about it. We feel a bit like the disciples facing five thousand hungry persons looking to Jesus for help and hearing him say, "you give them something to eat." We know our resources and efforts are insufficient for such a time as this, but we have read the Living Book and believe that He can bless and multiply our meager offerings. We believe that some child, in some book, is going to be impacted by some living idea that takes hold and nourishes him - perhaps one of tomorrow's great leaders. Greater still, we believe that many children learning through nourishing literature will take delight in the beauty of story and, realizing the purpose of God's story for themselves, will grow up to raise godly children who will increase His light in the world.

{ already, after one week, these women are starting to change their communities }

God has chosen the foolish things in the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things in the world to put to shame the mighty. It is not through slick programs and educational gimmicks, but with truth revealed by the Spirit. Our confidence isn't in ourselves to change the world through libraries, but we do have confidence in the Living Word, who makes Himself known through words and reminds us, "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Reading is not optional. It's critical. We are working on unique libraries, working to feed literature-impoverished lives. There are a couple dozen families building such libraries because they are convinced it just might be a matter of life and death. All who attended last weekend have felt this call, and as a result of the conference, we now know we are not alone in the good fight.

For the joy of reading,



  1. I am so proud and thrilled that we were able to host this event. More importantly, I am so proud of Liz and Emily for the fantastic job they did in bringing it to fruition!

  2. The last comment was made by Scott, the husband, BTW.

  3. We were so blessed! What a vision you have . I was struck by beauty.