Rebecca Light

My day jobs are two: my main role as an administrative librarian at the Middleton Public Library, and my side job as a partner at the Good Style Shop, a collective of seven vintage merchandise sellers.

First, the library.

It’s a very interesting time to work at a library. We’re navigating decisions about the future of libraries: the transition from libraries being about stuff to libraries being about people and experiences. I spend a lot of time thinking about creating community space, a really welcoming space that draws people in and makes them feel at home. We need those third places—aside from home and work—to gather and create community. And the library is one of the few spots where you can interact with others that doesn’t cost any money.

There’s been a move at some libraries to take physical materials offsite, which is not the path we’re taking—we’re still adding to our collection. But space constraints definitely make that tricky. We’re quite crunched and about to launch a renovation project. (Live in Middleton and want to share your thoughts about library services and strategy? Check out the library’ssurvey).

When I travel, I always go to libraries; Copenhagen has been my favorite. Scandinavian libraries in general are just gorgeous. One of the most famous is Dokk1 in Aarhus, Denmark. They do incredible things there. For instance, there’s a bell in the middle of the library. Each time a citizen is born, they ring it. The building design has a very inclusive spirit built into it. The same thing with their collection. It doesn’t say “this is a collection about this or that”; everything is for everybody.

This is quite different than the Dewey Decimal system, which is an American style of organizing content. A lot of libraries are actually moving away from it and going toward a book store model. If you’re going on a trip, you go to the travel section, not 914. Deciding what category to place a book in can actually be quite a philosophical discussion. Plus, there are whole categories we’ve had to create that didn’t exist when Dewey Decimal was invented, like computers. It all comes down to access: We want people to be able to find what they need.

And access extends to our approach to fines. Middleton has been fine-free for a long time. Some have a sense that without a consequence, people will steal the books. We’ve found generally people bring them back. There is still a due date, which you can renew. And if you don’t bring the book back you’re charged a replacement fee. People might think fines are a large revenue stream for a library, but that often isn’t the case.

In general our philosophy is “Let’s find ways for people to use the library.”

One of my responsibilities is to purchase the pop culture collection. What’s that you might ask? For instance, it’s trendy crafts or if a Real Housewife writes a book. Maybe the best way to describe it is “I know it when I see it.” It’s all about the high and low.

That “high and low” approach is also something I get to apply at the Good Style shop. The store just celebrated its 10th anniversary. It started as a typical vintage clothing business and moved to a collective model with seven of us selling our goods and running the store. We each work there one day a week—I’m there on Wednesdays. Stop by!

We carry clothing from the early 20th century through the 1990s.  My favorite era is the “midcentury” 1940s-60s.  It’s fun to see the history of clothing trends—for instance, the 1980s were a version of the 1940s in many ways; think of the shoulder pads.

If you collect vintage clothing it can be easy to accumulate too much. The store gives me a reason to seek out treasures. I’m always on the lookout and I love nothing more than driving to small towns to see what’s out there.

My most memorable caffeine was 16 years ago (March 1—an easy day to remember). It was the day I had my first date with my now-husband. He invited me to theGoodbye Blue Monday coffee shop in Northfield, Minnesota, where we went to college. I was very excited as I had a massive crush on him!

My current caffeine of choice is a latte. It’s a little bit fancy, but not too sweet. No Frapuccinos for me! And I recently made the switch to decaf.

My favorite place for caffeine are the following: Johnson Public House, they have excellent coffee and their pourover is worth the 10-minute wait. I live around the corner from theChocolatarian Cafe, which is perfect if you enjoy a good cookie with your coffee. And at work I go to Barriques, which is close to the library.

The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are Carla Hayden and Gilda Radner.

Carla is the new rock star librarian at the Library of Congress. She is the first woman, the first African-American and one of very few practicing public librarians to be in this role. She was appointed under Obama; the Obamas first knew her when she led the Chicago Public Library.

Carla is super approachable and a wonderfully warm, innovative person. She’s doing all these innovative things at the library—opening the reading room, making materials accessible, showing Ferris Bueller on the lawn. She’s a hero and we public librarians love her!

Gilda was my childhood hero. My parents had the “best of” video of the original Saturday Night Live cast and I watched her over and over again. Gilda was hilarious and she could do children really well, which was appealing. I just watched a documentary about her on CNN and I was in tears.

Her husband, Gene Wilder, created Gilda’s Club, a cancer support group in her memory (Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989).

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine.  A lot of us have too much stuff.

Caffeine puts me in a decluttering mood. Thanks to Netflix, Marie Kondo has been very popular for the last couple months, but librarians have known about her for years because of her book.

Even though I love to collect things, I do believe less is more. Keep the things you truly love—clothes, books, whatever—and donate the rest. I have some caffeine, set the timer for 20 minutes and dig in. Try it for yourself. And if you come up with any great vintage clothes, bring them to Good Style Shop!