The Upper Hudson Library System (comprised of 36 Libraries in Albany & Rensselaer counties) has a new challenge this year, to visit as many (or all!) of the 36 libraries in the system. Some libraries are big city libraries, others are rural small town libraries, some are in new buildings, some are in old houses… it’s an interesting tour and quite diverse. It’s not easy to do all 36 because kids are in school and many libraries close by 6pm, some are closed Sundays, and we can’t travel Saturdays, and we had all the Jewish holidays, but as we enjoy books, reading and libraries, we’re giving it a shot.

So because of this #Library36er campaign, we went one afternoon after school to one of the urban city libraries where our kids had not been before. It had old beautiful architecture, with the original wood and grand windows, all upgraded and retrofitted for the 21st century. There was a teen room with a big screen, tablets and computers were teens were playing and chatting, under some supervisor who kept it all in order, and in the children’s room a librarian (or perhaps a volunteer?) was engaging other children with coloring and crafts. 

My kids started choosing books, after all, it is nice to go to a different library that has a different collection. We filled up a big box of books which I had sitting on a little wheely. Once the box was full, I started to wheel the box out to the center of the library where the checkout counter was. But then a kid came up to us, visibly upset. “You can’t take those books out! You are stealing! Those books belong to the library and they have to stay right here!” I tried to explain that we’re going over to the checkout counter and we’re borrowing these books… but it became evident that he had no idea of what I was talking about. This 7 or 8-year-old boy had no idea that you could check books out. 

Even my younger daughters realized how sad and pitiful this situation was. Here’s a boy sitting in a library, he seemed quite comfortable there, it wasn’t his first time. He was probably a first or second grader, and he had no idea that libraries were meant for taking out books! The books aren’t just a prop or background scenery or something for storytime, but actually meant to take home! 

This happened a few days before Yom Kippur and is indeed a lesson for all of us.

Too many of us think that all the prayers belong in the prayerbook, and all the praying stays in the synagogue. People come to pray, they stand on their feet all day, they fast and participate in the services, but ironically, like the kid in the library, too many of us have no idea that the purpose of all this is to take it home! The purpose of the synagogue is to have something meaningful and useable to take home, to apply to our lives, to translate into everyday living. Don’t just leave it all in Shul! 

Please, make use of what’s being offered. “Check out” Jewish life on campus!