Marcus Larson/News-Register ## Mike Graham  and others browse the large selection of books during a recent book sale in the Carnegie Room at the McMinnville Library.
Marcus Larson/News-Register ## Mike Graham and others browse the large selection of books during a recent book sale in the Carnegie Room at the McMinnville Library.

Jenny Berg: Interaction, discovery a route to better health


I just finished listening to an interview with Eric Klinenberg, author of “Palaces For The People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, And The Decline Of Civic Life.” It made me want to laugh, cry, and cheer for the ideas brought forth.

Klinenberg discussed the benefits of a public library as they relate to the health of a community and its residents. It obviously resonated with me.

Guest Writer

Jenny Berg is the Library Director at the McMinnville Public Library and president of the Board of the McMinnville Downtown Association. She is currently reading the graphic novel “Green Almonds: Letters from Palestine” by Anaële Hermans and listening to “Life After Life,” a novel by Kate Atkinson. Say hello to her at El Día de los Niños Fiesta on May 4th at the Library and with the bookmobile in the Alien Parade on May 18th in downtown McMinnville.

The public library is a collective social institution where people of all walks of life can gather, engage and feel a sense of belonging and respect — something of great need in our society today. As the chasm between the haves and have nots of the world grows, as technology increasingly isolates people, and as we witness more crises in the world, the public library offers a unique option to address these issues.

Whether you are a have or a have not, you are welcome at the public library.

You don’t have to buy or believe anything to spend the day here. Do you have the funds to buy a desired book but want to downsize and declutter? Visit your local public library website and request a book or DVD. Don’t want to stop by the library lobby? Then download an audio or ebook directly to your electronic device or stream a popular movie using your library card. Are you a person experiencing homelessness? Stop by the library and avail yourself of the computers, wifi, books and more.

If you find yourself anywhere between these circumstances, of course, the library is ready and able to serve you, too.

Any given day, you may find engaging story times for parents and children, poets sharing their work to a supportive audience, gamers interacting through board and computer games, students of all ages studying quietly or working with a tutor, acquaintances at work together on a puzzle, volunteers helping individuals file taxes, or crafters, story tellers, musicians, readers and neighbors all enjoying the public library.

Public libraries serve a role during emergencies, too. Heat waves, freezing temperatures and poor air quality are all things we have seen in our community in the last few years. The library is the place for all people to escape environmental issues. In larger environmental disasters, libraries can be places to charge phones, use the internet, find distractions from the stress, gather together and distribute supplies during emergencies.

Studies have shown that social isolation is bad for our health. “The Happiness Track” author Emma M. Seppälä, Ph.D., writes on that “lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.”

Social connections lead to greater self-esteem, cooperation and feelings of well-being. These health benefits originate not only from strong social ties, but also from small social interactions with strangers. The public library is the perfect place to interact with others to improve your physical and social health.

Klinenberg uses the term “aggressively welcoming” when describing library staff. Don’t let the term scare you off: we won’t follow you around smiling and laughing maniacally. We will, however, make sure you feel welcome, respected and heard when you interact with staff at the public library.

I occasionally hear that some worry about visiting the library because the presence of people who have slipped through the cracks of the safety nets in our society. I am proud that the public library provides that safety net.

I am also proud of the work library staff does to make the McMinnville Public Library a safe and welcoming space for all. We recently updated out Patron Code of Conduct, focusing specifically at behaviors, not people. In all walks of life, from all backgrounds, socio-economic groups, races, religions, gender orientation and differently housed, there are people who are friendly and safe, and those who are dangerous. If you are one who has expressed or thought fearfully about the public library, I encourage you to visit with an open mind. You’ll likely find that fear is born from the unknown.

The public library is a place where you can find the commonalities of people. We all need warm, dry places in the winter and cool spaces in the summer. We all need to interact with others and feel respected and appreciated for who we are. We all need a place to rest our weary feet, a place to discover new ideas and a place to feel part of something greater.

The McMinnville Public library is that place, and I look forward to seeing you there.



Our Mac Library is a fantastic resource. The Friends Of McMinnville Public Library is a wonderful volunteer group who support the Library in many ways. Friends put on the Book Sale. They meet the 2nd Thursday of each month at noon in the Carnegie Room of the Library. A good group of folks focused on helping.