Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Importance of Libraries

Libraries are vital in all communities but most of all in small towns.   This is actually my column this week for The Neosho Daily News and it appeared in last evening's edition on July 20, 2011 but I thought the message was important enough to share.....even if you don't live in my town, I think most readers will enjoy words about the library!


I can still remember the neighborhood branch library in my hometown, a brick building that sat in the middle of a city block looking almost like a school.   That park like setting offered charm but the best was when I entered the building.   That aroma of books gathered together in a single space always infused me with the desire to read more and I can remember my delight when I could read well enough to browse the shelves to pick my own reading material.   Each summer they offered reading programs and I always gathered as many stickers (each equated a book read) as I could.  In those days, you also did a brief oral book report to the librarian so that she would know that the kid had really read the book.   In my zeal to make sure that she knew, I would give not a brief report but a synopsis that covered every main point that happened in the book.  Looking back, it’s no wonder that sometimes her eyes glazed over as I recounted the entire story from start to finish.


 On occasion, we also would go to the main branch library downtown, a larger facility with historic charm.  That building was new when my grandmother was a child because she could remember that all the school children in the city walked – long before the era of big yellow school buses – to be at the grand opening where they sang “America The Beautiful” in 1902.  I loved that library for its’ vintage woodwork and the second story with a glass floor which is still there today.  Last time I was “back home”, I took one of my daughters to the library to see its’ glory and she was a little hesitant about walking on the glass floor.   I assured her it was very safe and had been there for a long time.   That, she told me, was why she worried.



 When I moved to Neosho, the library was on Jefferson Street and I spent many a fond hour there.  During my college years, I took full advantage of the library first at Crowder College and then at Missouri Southern State University.  That campus library became almost my real home away from home and I probably spent as many if not more hours there than in my dorm room.   I enjoyed the solitude there and found it easier to study or read for pleasure there than over in the often hectic dorm setting.


 When the local library made the move from Jefferson Street to the current location on West Spring Street, I found the new surroundings comfortable and appealing but I also recall that it was meant to be a temporary measure.  Now, years later, our library serves the community well and in so many ways that I could have never imagined as a child who enjoyed visiting the library.


 As a member of the library board, I have an insider view to how great the needs of our library are and how much more could be offered to patrons if the library expands.   Our Neosho Newton County Library has begun the process of looking into expansion plans and I hope that when the time comes to put the issue on the ballot, that my fellow Neosho residents will give their approval to expansion.
 Our city continues to grow and prosper.  With a larger library with a greater capacity to serve public need, we have a chance to make a positive difference that will last for generations. As a writer, as a reader, as a citizen, I know the value that libraries have to offer and I hope that our community will choose to enhance our future through our local library.

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