Mid-Month Marvels: Lifetime Learning Center

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

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When I first got to the Seattle area, I didn’t really know anyone, and I was kind of lonely, so I decided to take a pottery class at the local community college. I learned more in that class than I anticipated (and I blogged about it here.) That’s also where I learned about the Lifetime Learning Center.

This center believes, as I do, that you’re never too old to learn something new. According to their website, their mission is to promote successful aging and maintain the social, cognitive and physical well-being of adults within our community. They do this by providing a variety of reasonably priced classes that meet once a week. (A $15.00 registration fee is required each quarter, and most classes are $35.00 per 8 week session.)

They don’t require that you be a senior citizen to attend their classes, but that is their target audience. And I think that’s wonderful. Learning is a great way to keep the mind sharp, and it gives you purpose and reduces isolation. We could all do with a bit of those things.

A quick glance at their course catalog definitely got me interested. Here are some of their offerings this quarter:

  • A History of the American Musical

  • Crochet

  • Intermediate Ukulele

  • Life Stories Writing Group

  • The Earth and the Oceans

  • Marxism

  • India: The Past is Present

  • Quilt Making Basics

  • Watercolor: An Innovative Approach

  • Beginning Bridge

  • The Tempest

  • Positive Psychology: Choose Your Own Adventure

  • Contemporary Arguments About Philosophy

If and when I retire, and my schedule becomes more flexible, I hope that I remember to take advantage of the classes on offer at the Lifetime Learning Center. Because I don’t want to ever stop learning.

I hope you’ll support this organization, and/or see if your community offers something similar.

OLÉ!
These are NOT students at the Lifetime Learning Center, but I’d like to think that the dynamic is the same.

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Service of Bibliomaniacal Proportions

According to Wikipedia, and contrary to popular belief, library usage is on the increase in spite of, or perhaps because of, our kindles and our nooks and our laptops. Unfortunately many local governments still target libraries first when they need to make budget cuts. The services a library provides can seem intangible to the public. They don’t rescue people from burning buildings or fill potholes or keep crime off our streets.

Unfortunately many libraries seem to be lax in promoting themselves, and that’s a tragedy because they provide a lot of amenities. Everyone knows that libraries are places where you can check out books and DVDs and use the internet, but there’s more to them than that. Many libraries offer research assistance, tax preparation assistance, homework assistance and a wide variety of classes from adult literacy to yoga to cooking to computer classes. They often host community meetings and conferences and are voting sites as well.

More and more libraries are also housing used book stores and cafes. They are great sources of genealogical information as well as archives of local history. They often provide programs to spark an interest in reading in children as well as book clubs for adults. Many coordinate summer reading programs.

Not satisfied with your library’s collection? Most of them participate in an interlibrary loan system and can get the material you desire that way, and they are also usually quite open to suggestions as to purchases they should make. People often don’t take advantages of this.

I recently convinced my library to buy the book “Crazy Town” by Robyn Doolittle, about Rob Ford, the crack smoking mayor of Toronto. I was very excited when it came in, not only because I then got to read it, but also because everyone who checks out that book from now on will have been influenced by my suggestion, and that’s a wonderful feeling.

It’s hard to put a price tag on information and knowledge and entertainment, but if we don’t support our libraries and actively participate in their programs, we will feel their loss acutely. So go to your library today, and bring a child or a friend with you. While you are there, thank the librarians for their service, as their praises go mostly unsung.

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[Image credit: librarything.com]

The End

The true sign of a civilized society is its investment in the arts and education. Once it has the ability and desire to support these pursuits, it has truly arrived at a level of sophistication that forever separates it from the barbarous dregs.

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Unfortunately in these troubling times more and more municipalities are suffering from financial crises that are unprecedented. Naturally, their first instinct is to cut back on cultural aspects of their budget. These things aren’t really “necessary”, right?  The most vulnerable point on any city’s lists of departments is the place where culture meets education: its public libraries.

Sure enough, the city of Jacksonville, Florida has announced that it plans to close 6 of its library branches, including the one that I frequent, the University Park Branch. Do I take this personally? Of course I do. Not a week goes by when I’m not buried in the stacks of this great library. I actually moved to this area of town because I knew the library was less than a mile away. But I protest this closure not only for myself, but for my community.

On any given day, especially since they cut back the hours, there’s a long line of people waiting for the doors to open. This library is a place where parents bring their children to reinforce the importance of literacy, where seniors come to get assistance with their taxes, where families check out videos for family night, where students come to do research, where kids can seek homework assistance, where a wide variety of people come to take classes–everything from cooking to anime, where children come for free summer lunches, and where job seekers with no internet access at home come to search for employment. It is also a source of free entertainment at a time when the family budget is under even more strain than the public one is.

Libraries also preserve our history, create special collections based on the needs of their specific communities, act as a meeting place where we can discuss our issues and concerns, are often the places where we vote and get married, are a source of different points of view, are an opportunity for expanding one’s education for those who cannot afford college, and dare I say it? A quiet, air conditioned refuge in an otherwise hot and hectic world.

I believe that libraries are the canaries in the coal mine. Their death presages the death of true civilization.

Jacksonville is a city with a population of about 828,000 and is in the bottom third of the country when it comes to literacy. That literacy rate has been on the decline for years. These libraries are not a luxury. They’re a necessity.

Join me in protesting the death of Jacksonville’s libraries! Contact Mayor Brown at Mayorbrown@coj.net. Also visit http://savejaxlibraries.com/ to see what else you can do.

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