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The Best Home Away from Home

Posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011.

Facilitator Daniel Littlewood and I traveled to West Bloomfield, Michigan to record stories of the West Bloomfield Township Public Library community. Michigan’s weather greeted us with a cold front, but the library staff, patrons and participants were plenty warm and inviting. Brenda, our on-site contact, gave us a tour during the first day. Besides their large collection of books, the library boasts a state-of-the-art computer center, outdoor patio space near several nature walks, and a magazine corner with a fireplace. According to the West Bloomfield residents we spoke to, the library is their home away from home, which may be one reason the Institute for Museum and Library Services gave the library one of ten National Medal Awards.

Melba and Gina

Melba Harris (l) and her friend, Gina

We recorded stories from residents of diverse backgrounds who utilize the library’s resources in a variety of ways. When Melba Harris was laid off from her job as a medical technologist, she had the opposite reaction of most people. As Melba remembers, “Being laid off was one of the best things that happened in my life. In being laid off, I learned who I am. And who I am is being resilient to what life brings me and being happy [with] whatever life gives me because this is the only life that you have.”

With more free time, Melba headed to the library to see what they offered. She began taking computer courses to learn the newest software. She also took a few classes that focused on job searches, which is where she met Gina, who had once been in the same position as Melba. With Gina’s guidance, Melba improved her resume and learned how to effectively present herself to employers.

Before long, Melba was offered another medical technologist position, but this time, she was equipped with a wealth of job-market knowledge for which she credits the West Bloomfield Township Library. When asked about her advice to those who have lost their jobs, Melba says, “Being laid off is not the end of the world. It is a new start in your life.”

Get to know more West Bloomfield storytellers! Click through the slideshow below.

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