My Columbus: Libraries

Note: I started writing these before COVID-19 hit the United States, but I’m going to post them while practicing self-quarantine and social distancing.

If given the opportunity, what would you want to share with a huge national audience about your city? What would you want one of your favorite celebrities to know about your small town? I started thinking about this, and because this is a personal blog and I have no editor, I decided to make it into a series so I could tell you more about my adopted city: Columbus, Ohio.

In the voice of a cheerleader, entertainment TV host Cameron Fontana turned around to ask the gathered members of the Harmony Project choir, “who here likes food!?” Of course, the crowd cheered their approval, because, who doesn’t like food? Standing behind the camera, I helped the producer of the Kelly Clarkson daytime TV show hand Fontana a box of unopened chocolate and peanut butter buckeye candies. As Fontana explained the candy to Kelly Clarkson, who was at her studio in Los Angeles, we quickly swapped the unopened box for an open one. Fontana’s mega-watt smile was frozen in place as he waited for Kelly to try the candy as the whole studio audience in LA was treated to Buckeyes. It should be noted that all one hundred and fifty members of The Harmony Project Choir plus one local librarian, who stood outside in gusting 30 degree weather for over two hours on location in Columbus, Ohio, were not treated to any candies whatsoever.

I had the very unique and bizarre opportunity to appear in a “live shot” on Kelly Clarkson’s TV show a few weeks ago because, to put it as simply as possible, my library was nominated for something called a “Knope Award” for Best Libraries in America in 2018 by one of our patrons. It just so happened that the day the show was highlighting the city of Columbus in their virtual feel-good tour of America, Clarkson would be interviewing my personal comedy queen, Amy Poehler. If you’ve seen Parks and Recreation, you get the connection. If you haven’t seen Parks and Recreation, literally what are you doing with your life?

I won’t make you feel bad, however, if you didn’t know Kelly Clarkson had a TV show. I didn’t know either. One of my coworkers even thought an email from a production assistant on the show was a phishing email and sent it directly to our IT guy. The Kelly Clarkson Show has started a segment where they spotlight different cities in America through a video chat with different groups and people from that city. For the Columbus segment, I got to share in a moment of fame with Buckeye chocolates, the wonderful Harmony Project choir, a public teacher who received a much-needed classroom renovation (why do public teachers need classroom renovations from celebrities? This is a disgrace, vote for your schools!!!!!), and The Arnold Sports Competition.

These are all great options for talking about Columbus in a forty-five second segment on a daytime TV show and I’m grateful that we got any airtime at all. Thank you Kelly Clarkson Show for coming to Columbus! When I talk about my adopted city, though, I’d want people to know about our libraries, our food (aside from Buckeyes), and our neighborhoods and parks.

My Columbus, Part One: The Libraries

I know, I know! But it’s true. The libraries in Ohio, and in Central Ohio especially, are phenomenal.

One of the coolest but strangest things about getting to have a 10-second video-chat interaction with actual comedy legend and groundbreaking actor Amy Poehler, was when an extremely nice reporter from the magazine Columbus Business First called me at work for an interview. She wanted an interview about how I got to talk to Amy Poehler. That’s basically it. A big Poehler fan herself, she took my name (spelled it right and got the last name correct, very thank you) and asked a lot of questions including, “what was it like to get to talk to Amy Poehler about libraries?” If you watched the clip, you’ll know I didn’t really get a chance to say anything of substance at all. I was able to share a little bit with Columbus Business First, what I’ll share with you now: Columbus, Ohio is one of the best cities in the nation for public libraries.

This goes both for opportunities for librarians and for the communities they serve. Columbus is home to a big library system with 22 branches spread across the city and into neighboring suburbs like Hilliard, Gahanna, Dublin, and Canal Winchester. In addition, small urban suburb cities like Grandview, Bexley, Upper Arlington, Worthington, and Westerville all have their own independently operated library or library system. All of these (except Westerville) plus many others from Central Ohio form the 17 member Central Library Consortium. Member libraries of the CLC share a catalog and almost all of their resources so that members of the Central Ohio community can have essentially unfettered access to thousands upon thousands of materials and resources, no matter their home library card.

It’s harder to turn a massive ship than it is a small boat and, likewise, the smaller libraries that occupy the Columbus area are able to be more agile and adaptive than the big Columbus Metropolitan Library. Grandview, Upper Arlington, Bexley, Worthington, and Westerville all provide a gamut of unique programming and services. Our communities may not even realize it, but we’re very lucky to live in a library ecosystem with both a big system and smaller more community focused libraries.

If you live in Columbus, and Ohio generally, and haven’t recently looked at what your libraries are doing, now is a great time to check up on their social media and websites. During a global pandemic, libraries are innovating to keep their communities connected, informed, and entertained, even while their physical buildings are shut.

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