There's that Jim Croce song about time in a bottle. Though it's a love song, it begins, "If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do..."
What would you do if you could just save one thing for time in a bottle?
That's kind of what the Billings Parmly Library is asking as it begins collecting ideas and items for a time capsule.
As part of the breathtaking new library, the folks there are going to create a time capsule. But there's a catch: The community will help decide what gets preserved in it.
Actually, there's another catch.
Instead of burying the time capsule and waiting for people to forget about it and then "finding" it years later, this capsule will be suspended and patrons will be able to see it.
The library's time capsule will be sealed sometime this summer, when the landscaping and parking lot are complete. It will remain sealed for 18 years, until Billings celebrates its sesquicentennial.
So in 18 years, what do you want folks to remember about right here, right now in Billings?
Oh sure, there'll be the expected items — a few newspapers about the library's opening and maybe a library memento or some pictures. But what do you think would best tell Billings' story to folks in the distant-but-not-too-distant future?
The library wants you to be a part of this project. It's collecting ideas for what to put in the capsule.
If you have an idea, you can send your thoughts (please limit the idea to no more than three items) either on email or through the mail — more on that in just a minute.
Meanwhile, the library will be polling fourth-grade classes from around Billings to come up with their best ideas for what should be included in the time capsule.
The library also has another ask.
As part of this time capsule project, the folks at the library want to know how the library has helped or changed the residents of Billings' lives. It wants these stories or thoughts preserved as part of the time capsule as well.
The question is straightforward: How has the library shaped your life?
I remember one of the best library stories I have ever heard. When Casper, Wyo., was considering building a new library, a woman stood before a group of community leaders and with a heartfelt appeal told how going to the library taught her how to read as an adult. She admitted that she had struggled through life being illiterate, but because of the library and a few helpful librarians she could now read and had become a voracious consumer of the printed word.
I, too, have my favorite library memories. I can remember checking out a book over and over again about Abraham Lincoln in elementary school. I also love that my children go bonkers whenever they get to go to the library to pick out new books.
So, what's your story?
For our part here at The Gazette, we want to help preserve the ideas — both the pitches for what items should be included in the time capsule, as well as the stories of what the library has meant to you. So, as the library receives submissions, we'll make sure to include them on our website. That way, all the ideas and all stories will be preserved in a sort of electronic time capsule, as well as a real-life capsule that will hang suspended in the new library.
When it gets closer to dedicating the time capsule, we'll print parts of the best responses and ideas in The Gazette. Who knows? Maybe we'll have to print pages and pages because of such an overwhelming response.
I hope you decide to pitch a couple of your best ideas. If not that, then consider putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and recount why the library is something important in your life (entries should be less than 500 words).
If you want to submit those ideas, here are the two ways to do it. You can send your ideas or stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, you can send those ideas via mail to: Billings Public Library, Attention: Time Capsule, 510 North Broadway, Billings, MT 59101.
The submissions are due by April 4.
As soon as the submissions start coming in, check back at The Gazette to see those ideas online.