|Rodney and Melanie Vliet|
Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a boy whose mother loved to read. She really liked what she found in books and magazines at the public library. She liked to read so much that she read many, many stories from lots of interesting places to her son. When the time was right, that mother took the boy with her to a wonderful building that housed many books about just about everything. This, she explained, was “the library.” She encouraged her son to explore the shelves and piles of books and magazines “the library” held to discover whatever interested him.
Initially, he was most taken by the small books with pictures--some drawings and some photographs--of curious things like platypuses and octopi or sharks and whales or mice. These marvelous friends had lots of adventures which took them to strange new places very different from, but yet in other ways very much like, his own home. They even had brothers and sisters, mammas and papas. Some sang and danced while others talked or silently thought and considered what was going on around them.
One day the boy began to understand the letters and words that were in these marvelous books, and he read them to himself, for himself, and by himself. He did not have to have his mother read to him anymore, even though he very much enjoyed having her do so. He came to believe that books were meant to be shared. He borrowed some. He bought some. He received some as gifts on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas, and the 4th of July. He talked to his friends about the books he read, both at home and at school. He even found that on Sundays he could read about a great God who loved the world so much that He sent His Son to our land, so that we could love that Son as much as He loved us.
As time passed, kindergarten, elementary school, junior high and even high school came and went, bringing with them even more exciting accounts of adventures, inventions, customs, and games from around the world in the books to which his teachers and his mother guided him. But the most fun was going to “the library”--any library would do, so he could find the great books that showed him every manner of idea from history, philosophy, psychology and religion—the faiths that held peoples together when they did not drive them apart.
Eventually, he ended up at a Bible College, of all places. There he worked in a library with a young lady who became his wife. They went off to graduate school eventually and finally completed advanced degrees in their chosen fields—religion, literature, philosophy, psychology, and child development mostly. One day he even got a job at a small Bible College teaching English, Bible, history, and psychology, but that tiny school with its very small library had no one to take care of the books, magazines, and journals. So the Dean, who had been one of his own high school teachers, asked him if he would fill in as the librarian until they could find someone who had actually gone to library school. Well, he did, and got an extra $8 a week for his time and effort.
As more years passed and his work places changed, each one had librarians who helped the students and faculty find the materials they needed to do their work. And, wouldn’t you know it, one day, another Dean, who was his good friend, asked him if he would go to library school and learn how to better serve the college where they taught. And so he did.
After a while, another school, a university, asked him to come and help them design and build a new library and help them meet the accrediting standards required for recognition of the quality of their work. And so he did. For over twenty years he worked to help build a strong library of walls and windows, stacks of books, a great staff, and room for many computers and subscriptions to journals and digital collects of nearly every type.
After a while, his first wife passed away, but he found a second one--where else but at his library.
Well, as time ran apace, he got older and wanted a little change. He retired from the university, continued his own research, and started some writing projects. Nevertheless, he continued to think of that place that had sent him to library school all those years ago. As he thought and prayed, it seemed good to him to volunteer--to go back there and see if he could be of service. He said, “May I help you?” And Robin, the Library Director, said, “Yes, you may.”
So it is that he is there to this day still confronting ideas, reading stories, and playing with words that help other scholars do what scholars do. That is how he got to where he is at this moment, in a distant land where he is about to present some of his thoughts on a great American author of whom some have never heard to other scholars who have established an intellectual circle to share what they know and believe about the people and ideas that live around them.
Rod Vliet, B.S.L, M.A., Ph.D., M.L.S.,
A Library Volunteer