Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Libraries I Have Known
Carthage was a small town, friendly in its own way, but it was a town with stiff social barriers and closed avenues for making connections. People who had lived here a quarter of a century were still considered “newcomers” or “nice, but not natives”. The Public Library, an old Carnegie building of Carthage marble and rounded domes was where I found friendly faces and open thoughts on both the clerks and the shelves. I went regularly for smiles and reading. By the time our children arrived, going to the library was weekly treat. I pushed strollers to the library, on to town, poked around dime stores and walked the two miles back home.
Alice in Wonderland sculpture by Bill Snow at Carthage Public Library.
Eventually I wanted to give back and helped formed a Friends of the Library group for supporting the library with activities and fund-raising. I was full of ideas, but the librarian at the time was a skeptical man. My first adventure was bringing William Childress to town. Childress, born in the Ozarks, was a poet and a columnist for the St. Louis Post Dispatch at the time. His evening program turned out to be standing room only and great night of stories and music by Chilly, as he was called. Another Ozark poet, Joan Yeagley, did a day program with equal success.
When I suggested we get Janet Dailey to come speak and do a book signing, no one thought it was possible. The Friends nixed the idea and the librarian still had his eyebrows lifted in doubt. One day I just decided to send out a feeler on my own. Three days after I mailed my letter, I came home to an answering machine message from Dailey’s husband and manager. Not only would Janet come, but she would donate all proceeds to the library. I had to get busy telling the Friends board and librarian we had work to do as Janet Dailey was on her way. Janet was a congenial person who spoke about her books and writing, greeted fans, and signed books. It was a great event.
I had been substituting for years as my children were growing up, but once college fees were on our doorstep, I took a more permanent job at the junior high. I was greeted by and made good friends with the junior high librarian, now called Media Specialist. I connected students with the library at every possible turn, helped form a reading club, promoted speakers. For a treat in any free time, I read Way Back in the Ozarks by Monk Hefley to my students. They begged for these stories, and Mr. Hefley agreed to come to the school one day a year. He had lunch with us, spoke to all the classes, and gave me tee shirts with his book cover on them. Mrs. Stone had to replace copies of his books often as the readers wore them out. My students wanted to reread the stories, and other classes got wind of the great stories I was sharing with my students and wanted to read them too.
I still love libraries. About five years ago, a friend and I gathered up a few retired teacher friends and formed the Toter book club. (Terrific Old Teachers Enjoy Reading…and have toted many bags of books.) We use library books or donate our own titles to the library once we have held our meetings. We make book donations to the library instead of flowers for celebrations or grief condolences. At the moment there are six of us, representing physical education, Language Arts, Reading, elementary education, geography. Our interests are varied, but we all believe in and support libraries.