On a recent visit to the River Forest Public Library, I asked about the availability of a book at the second floor inquiry desk. I named the title of the book and spoke briefly with the attendant while she checked the computer screen for its status.

It was still checked out, I learned.

No big deal. I wandered over to a bookshelf nearby to browse around for another book of interest. No more than a couple of minutes later, the librarian walked over to me with my sought-after book in her hand. It had just been returned to the check-in desk one floor below.

Her colleague there was sharp-eared enough to hear me mention the book title and thoughtful enough to bring it upstairs personally to inform me of its availability.

My gosh! I thought. Do the walls have ears? How could that first floor attendant hear me mention a book title when she was located one floor above where she was sitting? More to the point, how noteworthy it is when people go about their daily tasks with that level of excellent service in mind.

Libraries are enormously valuable assets to any community, ours included. How many of us realize that 55,000 books are available in the River Forest library on topics of every genre and era, capable of enlightening the mind, expanding the spirit, and providing endless hours of enjoyment, cost free?

Throughout last year alone, 671 programs of interest were offered and 19,000 people were served, ranging from toddlers under 5, to nonagenarians like me, to all ages in between.

These stats are equaled, and then some, by our Oak Park libraries — all of them treasures for all of us.

I recall this suggestion by a seminary professor decades ago: “When you enter a library, bow low.” He was calling us to honor libraries and librarians as outposts of knowledge and wisdom down through the centuries and repositories of all that keeps us human and humane through books of lasting merit.

In this age of hyper communication, it can seem out of fashion to sit down with a book that challenges, informs, edifies, entertains, fascinates, delights, irritates, but ultimately proves worth the effort.

Books of merit will not grow out of fashion, however their format and whatever their topic. Here’s an invitation to pay our libraries their best tribute by using them.

And considering what’s inside a library, it’s not a bad idea to bow low in appreciation of the marvels waiting inside. 

F. Dean Lueking, 60 years a local resident, is pastor emeritus of Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest. 

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