Not Your Father’s Library | Lower Macungie Library’s Mission to Inform ∙ Enrich ∙ InspireJul 12, 2023 12:19PM ● By Alan Allegra
I grew up in a little bitty town, where our musty old library building housed our kindergarten class. To us, the books were musty and the librarians were just as musty. The library building seemed enormous, like an ancient cathedral. A wall-size mural of Native Americans and settlers dominated one end of the room, and card catalogs formed a maze at the other end. Our teacher was Mrs. Fieldhouse. I remember reciting The Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd that I shall not want), and the Pledge of Allegiance (one nation, under God, invisible). I also remember nap time and chicken pox.
In later years, when papers were due and research was required, and my set of World Book Encyclopedias didn’t suffice—“Dad, can you drive me to the library? I have to write a full-page paper on the Industrial Revolution for tomorrow.”
I recently interviewed Kathee Rhode, MLS, Executive Director of the Lower Macungie Library. Being a library fan for many years and many reasons, I was happy to see that libraries, once predicted to become Model Ts in the age of Teslas, have kept up with the times, trends, and technology. The Lower Macungie Library and its 11 other Lehigh Carbon Library Cooperative members truly live up to the motto, “There is something here for everyone!”
Kathee has been Executive Director of the LML for 19 years. During that time, the LML has been renovated and expanded through taxpayer and corporate funding, as well as the generosity of private individuals who appreciate the contributions the library makes to the public.
When COVID descended upon the world, the LML was not immune—it also was not dormant. The inspiration and creativity of Kathee and the dedicated staff resulted in alternative ways to provide education and entertainment to the Lower Macungie Community. There were outdoor activities and social media outreaches and book and video pickups—all achieved under the safest conditions.
A tour of the LML is a “Wow!” experience. No musty books and librarians here! The staff members I met were bright, friendly, and enthusiastic about their role in serving the community. The facility is just as bright and dedicated. You would never know that a “plumbing incident” had once flooded the premises. Because the books and materials were on raised shelves, they were spared. After replacing the carpeting in the front of the building and purchasing all new office furniture, the library was back in business.
The staff members I met were busy systematizing books, sitting in the IT manager’s seat, serving a senior who needed help with a computer, and scheduling live activities for children. There are even opportunities for volunteers to help serve; in fact, volunteers do most of the shelving.
When I knowingly asked Kathee why a librarian needs a degree—Seriously, how hard can it be to stack shelves?—she ticked off a list of responsibilities that included staff management, budgeting, feeling the pulse of the community and culture, planning, and other background tasks that make the library comfortable, comprehensive, and contemporary.
Although I visited the LML during off-peak hours, there were people of all ages reading, getting help with technology, and lying on comfy benches, Airpods in place. Kathee says the library is a place where people can read, listen, work, study, play, learn, hook up to WiFi, and hang out—all for the single price of $0.00! Even a library card is free for local residents! There are also little community-minded touches, such as a bin to collect used glasses and hearing aids, and a rotating stand containing brochures for local and other getaway destinations.
A quotation from the library’s comprehensive website says it all: “The library provides a welcoming atmosphere where every member of our community can explore, discover, and create. Whether you’re in need of homework help, a Book-a-Librarian session, studying your genealogy, or accessing materials such as books, audiobooks, DVDs, and eBooks & eAudiobooks, the library has something for everyone—all with a free library card!”
When I was out of work for about 3 years and had no computer, the local library was my home away from home. I could job search while streaming tunes, borrow DVDs to watch while eating cereal at home during lunch, and just sit outside admiring nature. Getting to know the workers was fun and helped alleviate the loneliness of joblessness.
I strongly recommend that you visit the beautifully-landscaped, lovingly-staffed Lower Macungie Library, which shares a campus with the Lower Macungie Community Center, 3450 Brookside Road, and pick up their information packet that tells you more than I ever could. Or visit their comprehensive website to learn how the Lower Macungie Library can “inform ∙ enrich ∙ empower” you and your family!