Ace, the Northern Onondaga Public Library Dog, came to visit our class along with his human, Meg. Ace is a registered Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen who spends his time working split shifts between three branches in the NOPL system. He also comes with his very own barkcode–and is available for patrons to check out. Meg told us that Ace is loved by old and young alike. He is a serene soul who is patient with young people just learning to be gentle with their furry friends, and a good companion to any patron who is looking for a reading partner.
Our collective student reaction to Ace spoke volumes to me about the effect he must have on library patrons. I am not a “dog person,” but I still found myself smiling and putting out my hand when Ace sauntered by my chair. I could picture my grandmother with him sitting at her feet while she read magazines; or my former preschool class visiting him to practice gentle touches and to talk about pet care. I’m sure I was not alone in imagining how great it would be to play with him during our class break.
During our boot camp week, we talked a lot about innovation, about connecting with your community, about not being afraid to try new things. I think librarians in general love that theory. And I think that we too often get lost in the weeds when attempting to apply that theory. Ace is a great example, a living example no less, of the application of innovation in a meaningful way. Ace didn’t just show up at the library one day, bark twice, and begin his Library Dog adventure. Employing a therapy dog at the library started as a good idea someone had to fill a longing in their community. Ace’s human, Meg, was brave enough to ask “why not?” More importantly, she was brave enough to navigate the bureaucratic obstacle course that generally accompanies such ideas. We too often respond to unconventional ideas by throwing up our hands and saying, “Wow, that’s a great idea, but we’ll probably never be allowed to do it.” Next time you are tempted to do that, stop and think about how to overcome the obstacles to making a great idea into reality. In Meg’s case, she found out what was necessary to make this great idea work (finding the right kind of dog, getting him the proper training, etc.) and shared her willingness to roll up her sleeves and make it happen. Then she did.
Library dogs are pretty awesome. And librarians like Meg are pretty awesome, too.
You can find more details about Ace (and some other cool programs) at the Northern Onondaga Public Library website: http://www.nopl.org/ace