The Rangeview Library District and Anythink Libraries, an Institute for Museum and Library Services‘ 2010 National Award winner, hosted StoryCorps for three recording days at their Wright Farms branch in Thornton, Colorado. During our visit, Pam Sandlian Smith, the district’s library director, and her good friend, Sharon Morris, recorded a conversation about Anythink and some of their formative memories at other libraries.
Pam remembered a little boy who visited the Denver Children’s Library many summers ago while she and Sharon worked there. He saw the unused story hour room, its stage and hand puppets, and asked Pam if he could hold a show there at the end of the week. Sensing an opportunity, Pam obliged with one condition: He had to keep the room tidy.
The boy visited every day to perfect his puppetry and posted signs around the library advertising the final event. Nearly 30 people attended as he played every hand puppet part. Later, as the boy upheld his end of the bargain and tidied the room, Pam remembered the look of satisfaction on his face and was surprised when he didn’t return for a long time.
Many Saturdays passed, but one weekend the boy stopped by the library with his father. “Today is my birthday, and this is my dad,” he told Pam. “He just got a job. That means we’re moving out of the homeless shelter where we’ve been living this summer. We’re getting an apartment far away, so I won’t be able to come back here. I just wanted to say thank you,” the boy said.
But according to Pam, the benefit was mutual. The boy’s puppet show had been a great service for the library and its patrons that day, and it happened simply because the boy had asked and Pam said yes. Working at Anythink, Pam holds this memory with her to instill that same energy — community affirmation by way of play — within her staff.