An old truism is that the library is the center of its community. It’s a gathering place -- a quiet shelter, a place to meet, a place to get work done. It provides so much to so many, far more than most folks even realize. One thing it provides is a rare opportunity for everyone in the community to get out, get together, and share.
Every year, the Richmond Heights Memorial Library has a Chinese New Year Celebration, just one of the big events we do annually, with around 200 people of all ages attending. We read stories to the kids. The Shaolin Lohan Pai lion dance troupe make a lot of noise while a gigantic lion-beast dances around the room. We eat oranges and moon cakes (and this year, fried rice from Yen Ching). The kids do crafts. It’s a great time!
It’s also a rare thing, this gathering en masse to have fun. No one is buying anything, and no one is selling anything. It’s free to everyone, and all are welcome. It’s not like a store or mall, where commerce is the primary function, or like a political meeting, where agendas strain to be heard. No one is frustrated, no one has a plan, no one is worried. Instead, we’re all happy, relaxed, laughing, watching, dancing, smiling. Few things bring joy quite like dozens of children all squealing and laughing together when the rainbow-silk-and-tassels lion is standing 10 feet tall.
Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of the event is that everyone stays after to talk. The event consists of 10 minutes of story time and 20 minutes of lion dance, but we stay around for another hour, chatting, grinning, crafting, munching treats. We librarians always end up taking down the decorations while the community is still there – and usually get a few helping hands in the process – just because we all want to keep each other company, even though we're supposed to clear the room by 9. Busy lives, bedtimes, early mornings – all of that is forgotten, because we’ve found something more important.
When I moved into my house near the airport, I went around with sponge cakes to introduce myself, and I still wave to people as they pass, but I can’t say I’ve done much to get to know my neighbors. However, since I started working at the library, and putting on the CNY event every year, I have come to know many Richmond Heights folks (and elsewhere, as our little library brings in people from all around). I see their faces every year at the event, and talk with them, then talk with them again when they visit the library over the next week. It’s my community. I know our library events have done this for a lot of people, given them a change to come out, talk, relax with their neighbors. It’s a great thing, having this library at the center of this community.
If you want to join us this year, the Chinese New Year Celebration is at 7pm, February 11th. It’s free, and open to everyone. If you want to know more, call 314-645-6202 and ask for me, Scott. We’d love to have you!