Bookmark Moments

A Mom, a Boy and a Library

About a year and a half ago, after taking an Abundant Mama Project online course, I resumed the practice of keeping a daily gratitude journal. Instead of finding five things to be grateful for each day (the going rate), I find 10 to 15. At the beginning of each new journal, I write a quote by Abundant Mama’s founder Shawn Fink: “Go forward in gratitude, feel the abundance.” I try to emphasize the latter. For me this daily reflection is an exercise in perspective as much as it is a writing exercise in capturing succinct, specific moments in my life. As a result, over the past year and a half, I’ve recorded detailed snapshots that call out the humbling joy that scaffolds my day-to-day.

On Dec 6, I wrote, as item number four:

C, nestled under his covers, looking closely at the pages of Stuart Little that his daddy just read. “Let’s put a bookmark in here,” he says to me quietly, urgently. I get up and find a bookmark–a coupon from his NeilMed nasal irrigation kit. I slip it in, snug. “Where did you find this?” he asks as he examines it marking his page, running his exquisitely human fingers from the bookmark and along the page tops, prying the book open to the marked spot again and again. “Anything can be used as a bookmark,” I say.

Opening Stuart Little, his Daddy’s book from when he was little.

This kind of moment is one of the things I appreciate most about being a parent: an item as mundane as a bookmark becomes wondrous, magical. It’s these moments that make my heart swell.

This shift in perspective is also what I appreciate most about the winter holiday season. It is a time of festive joy, generous kindness, family and community gatherings and celebrations. We slow down. We reflect. We rejoice. We find gratitude and abundance. It is wondrous and magical–a soft, sweet time of year.

Our community, and especially our library, has something to be grateful for this holiday season: the passing of Measure K! According to the City’s recently published final election results, almost 11,000 Pleasant Hill residents (67%) voted in favor of Measure K. “Measure K needed a simple majority to pass and thus the measure was successful. The half cent sales tax increase will take effect in Pleasant Hill on April 1, 2017,” Martin Nelis reported. Let us all rejoice in soon-to-come abundant local funds for local needs!

Who better to reflect with on the exciting opportunities this brings our community than Pleasant Hill Library’s Community Library Manager, Patrick Remer (who, incidentally, said in his County Library bio that he is “especially lucky to learn from our youngest visitors, for whom this universe appears so magical and mysterious.”)? We sat down on the morning of Pleasant Hill’s ninth “Light Up the Night evening of merriment” downtown (which enjoyed a robust turnout this year) to discuss what’s next now that Measure K has passed.

“Everybody was sort of holding their breath over the election,” Patrick started. “The Library Task Force is reconvening and there’s a lot of momentum” now toward the building of a new Pleasant Hill library.

One of the first steps for new County Library Director Melinda Cervantes, Patrick stated, is to “present a list of architects that have worked in libraries before or who have a specialty in libraries.” He continued:

I am really excited to see that list and maybe make some redactions because I think having experience building libraries doesn’t necessarily make you great at it. There’s folks who learn important lessons and are good at what they do but there are plenty of examples out in libraryland of folks who just got it wrong. Even here in Contra Costa County, we have some new libraries that are absolutely gems but there were some obvious decisions that were made without strong community input. The results are really hard to reverse or improve now.

Patrick, the consummate collaborator and community leader, intends to make sure the Pleasant Hill community comes to the table with the architect.

Another “next step” is identifying the land on which the new library will be built. As Patrick said, “finalizing the site is huge. I’m really hoping that something is going to shake out in the next couple of months. The tone of the conversation suggests we can figure this out soon.”

After the architect and building site are selected, the City will be in charge of setting up a master timeline. Patrick stated, “That master timeline, the biggest piece of it for me is making sure that we choose an architect and other consultants or contractors who are going to be really responsive and interested in having a dialogue and an iterative design process.”

Patrick is adamant about this. Our community’s voices need to be heard as part of the planning process. “We need to have opportunities to learn more about ourselves as a community before we get to really high-stakes decisions,” Patrick said. “In the case of a building, it’s a pretty permanent decision, it’s like a 50 year-long minimum decision. I want to have those voices heard now.”

He basically wants to bring our community together for what I am calling a gigantic collaborative brainstorm–in the form of town halls, workshops and focus groups–to ensure that the library is what we want and what we need. As you may know, Patrick emphasizes and prioritizes community collaboration at every step of the library’s service. So in building the new library his approach will be no different.

“My real goal is thinking about that first day when we have opening day and people come into the library for the first time, what kind of reaction are they going to have?” Patrick said. “On the one hand you want a sense of surprise and wonder and delight like, oh my gosh! This is so much better than I could have possibly imagined! At the same time, you sort of want a little bit of a uh-huh, this is what I asked for. This is what, when I showed up to those community events and I got all my friends involved to really dream this thing up, this is basically what we put down.”

The short version? The next steps toward a new library can be boiled down to this: architect, land, timeline and that gigantic forthcoming brainstorm (more on that in another post). What can Pleasant Hill residents do in the interim while the Library Task Force, City and County work out their parts?

Patrick said he wants our community to “show up.” He continued:

I would really like to see the passion now before this new library is built because there is less that I can do to respond to passion, and input, and constructive criticism after the thing is built. I also want people to be engaged not just with the details of Okay, we’re constructing a thing. It’s an architectural problem. I really want it to be a philosophical problem in the sort of form following function, and that we should be brainstorming firstly about the function. By function I really do mean the purpose with a capital P of what we do when we use our library.

Our community needs to take stock in the little things so we can start dreaming about the big things. Or as Patrick described it, we need to “drill down to the details.” This is the perfect time of year to do so. Simply surrender to all the season’s wondrousness. Really look at what and who you appreciate, on every level. And not just about the library. Examine and distill the details of the places you find yourself. Go out into our community and notice what you appreciate the most. What moves you? What soothes you? What makes you feel welcome, engaged, valued? What makes you excited? What makes you feel full? Where are you most comfortable? Where are you the most productive? How do you learn and discover best? Break out all those w questions (and yes, how is one of the w questions). Check out the intersections of form and function around you. Contemplate purpose (with a capital P) in the spaces you and your family, friends, and neighbors occupy. Notice all the little things you appreciate about all those places where you touch your comforts, happiness, connectedness, community. Observe with soft curiosity. Find your bookmark moments.

Then jot them all down somewhere so you can bring them to our gigantic community brainstorm.