Adulting can be hard, and often it isn’t very much fun. Oxford Languages named “adulting” its word of the year in 2016: “Adulting (noun): The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” This is all part of a bigger issue in our society: Why does being an adult have to be all work and no play?
As someone who has developed adult library programs for the past six years, I am a huge advocate for providing adults with low stress, creative, playful and social opportunities in the public library. According to the National Institute of Play, a life without play is a public health risk. Its research has shown that “the prevalence of depression, stress-related diseases, interpersonal violence, the addictions, and other health and well-being problems can be linked, like a deficiency disease, to the prolonged deprivation of play.” Play makes us more optimistic and leads to a sense of reward from perseverance and mastery. It also promotes feelings of belonging and community, and it even gives our immune systems a boost!
At Pine River Library, our mission statement is “Connecting People to Possibilities,” a concept that is woven throughout everything our library does for the community. Along with the Pine River Garden Club, we’ve hosted multiple “Zucchini Festivals,” which include judging contests (ugliest, biggest, etc.), zucchini carving/decorating, cooking competitions and even a parking lot squash catapult. On the surface, this event may seem a bit like “fluff,” but it sparks joy, promotes the local harvest and brings people together, creating a deeper sense of community. We’ve hosted cooking classes, pottery classes, tea tastings, acting classes, knit nights and salsa dance classes. In our take-and-make kits, we’ve given out everything from sourdough starters to self-care essentials. For years, a volunteer film buff from our community has hosted “Classic Movie Mondays,” showing mainly movies from the 1940s-1960s. We consistently have 20 or more people in attendance, many of them seniors from the community who so enjoy gathering together and revisiting the movies they loved from the past. Over the past few years we have developed an all ages “bingo card” for our Summer Learning Program, encouraging everyone from babies to adults to win prizes by completing tasks like learning something new, committing acts of kindness and, of course, reading a book.
On the most simplistic level, I became a public librarian because I love to read. Little did I know that my love of reading would lead me to a career where I worked to provide the community with equitable access to not only books but also equitable access to experiences. Libraries function as a “third space,” a communal place that is not home (the first space) or work/school (The second space). I work daily to make that third place one of play, fun, learning and exploration for adults in our community. Because adulting shouldn’t be a chore.
Darcy Poletti is assistant director for Pine River Library.