Recently I was chatting with a friend, who told me that there are seven phases of life. I found it compelling. These phases or transitions mark the …
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Recently I was chatting with a friend, who told me that there
are seven phases of life. I found it compelling.
These phases or transitions mark the passage from one state of
being to another:
Birth. Where it all begins. (Or does it?)
Childhood. Few of us remember anything before the age of 4 or 5.
The end of infancy is the beginning of memory. Or it may be the
other way around.
Puberty. These first stirrings of sex herald adulthood.
Adulthood. At this threshold, formal schooling is done. One
begins a work career, or otherwise joins the grown-up world.
Family. This might involve spouses and children. But at a deeper
level, this is about establishing important and enduring
relationships, in which someone other than you is nurtured and
Retirement/empty nest. The formal work years are done. The
children are gone.
Death. Where it all ends. (Or does it?)
Part of me wants to structure the arc of a life around the
notion of values.
It looks like this: we receive values (through childhood), we
test values (adolescence), we apply values (in work and early adult
life), we transmit values (as parents and mentors), and just
possibly, we transcend values (as questing seniors).
There's a library connection to all of this. (Surprise!)
It just might be that the real and true significance of my
venerable institution is this: we're there.
That is, the public library is there for you, with a host of
customized offerings, for everybody, at any and every phase of your
There are a happy few of us who established a habit of library
use as children, and continued through the rest of our days. We are
well familiar with the regular offerings of the the public
But for a significant percentage of the population, that habit
never got formed. What, then, is the value of the library to
I think there are two.
First, the library as an institution assembles the public around
activities that promote the public good: literacy, lifelong
learning, civic engagement, and culture. Together, libraries
encourage our communities to be both more civilized and more
Second, no matter how together you may feel, the odds are good
that at least one of these big life transitions — or the many
smaller transitions that occur within them (such as a job change or
health crisis) will catch you offguard. You won't feel quite
equipped to deal.
And there we are: with books and databases and programs on
healthy pregnancy (to deal with those before-birth issues), on
early brain development, on support for education, on the issues of
young adulthood, on career planning, on rearing your children and
relationships, on retirement, and on estate planning (for those
Or it could be that our main contribution in such times of
stress is simple escape. Overwhelmed by life? You need … a western!
A mystery! A romance!
What was once "a nice thing to have" now becomes absolutely
essential to navigating a time of profound transformation in your
life. And you don't have to do anything weird to access it: We're
already a part of your community, with people trained to guide you
quickly and confidentially to the sources that make a
The public library: it's not just a phase. It's for all the
phases of our all too complicated lives.
Jamie LaRue is director of Douglas County Libraries. LaRue's
Views are his own. Contact him at 303-688-7656.
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