Friday, 3 September 2010

In Support of Our Local Library

Our nearest library, located  in Greenville County, South Carolina, began in 1921 (a bit before my time) with 500 books to loan. This was the first BookMobile operated in the upstate of South Carolina. The town of Greenville, SC, grew quickly with the introduction of textile manufacturing to our area. Villages sprang up around each textile plant, then called a mill, and these villages were called "mill villages." The Bookmobile served the "mill villages" and provided many a housewife with her first chance to borrow a library book.  

The Greenville County Library System now consists of a main library downtown (this is our main building built in 2002) and ten branches containing over one million items including books, DVDs, audiobooks, computer stations with free internet access, newspaper and periodical documents, research resources, genealogy materials, access to public records, and providing conference and meeting rooms. 

In 2009 there were close to 277,000 registered borrowers at the Greenville County Library System and annually there are almost 2 million walk-in visits among this main building and the ten branches.

This is just a small part of the of the 123,000 libraries spread throughout the United States  

     When I began first grade, no kindergarten back then, I walked into my first library with my class on our first "library day". I must have had a wondrous look of awe on my face to see so many books in one place. This was the first library I had ever seen. Miss Lawrence, young, very pretty, finishing college, and fulfilling her Librarian internship, spoke to my teacher. Then she came straight to me, took me from the class, (I thought I was in trouble) and said, "Let me show you around." 
     I thought I died and went to Heaven. When she found out I could already read above a fourth grade level, she showed me books and more books. Dick and Jane, Spot and Puff, just couldn't hold my interest after the books I saw. During the next weeks, every spare minute I could beg, borrow, or slip away was spent in that library. I almost missed my bus on more than one occasion. 
     Miss Lawrence always welcomed me. She kept me out of trouble several times by telling my teacher she requested my help when she actually didn't. But she seemed to understand my love affair with books. She arranged for me to spend my reading class with her, in the Library. She always had a new challenge, a new topic for me to read. During the next three years, I read almost every book in our school library. I hated summers because my access to my beloved books was cut off for three months. 
     Then in fourth grade, we went on a field trip to the public library. I never realized we had such a thing for poor people. I thought they were only for wealthy people. Here were even more books, and I could borrow them for free. Whenever any of my extended family who lived nearby were going to town, I begged a ride and a quick stop at the public library. I read fiction and non-fiction. I read biographies, histories, everything I could find about horses and dogs, and even studied plants and Earth sciences. I read about Orville and Wilbur Wright and about the Hindenburg. I read all of the books by Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry, and Jack London before moving on to O'Henry, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ralph Moody. The Head Librarian at the Anderson County Library (in the county where we lived then) began to put aside new books and have them for me when I would run through to drop off my returns and hurriedly search for more while my ride waited.
     In sixth grade, I happened upon my first romance. Celia Garth by Gwen Bristow had just reached my school librarian's hands. Mrs. Cartee told me to let her finish it and if it was suitable she would loan it to me. She loan me her personal copy and it started me on a lifelong love of romance. I quickly moved to Phyllis Whitney and on and on. Thank God for Librarians!
     Many of you at this point are probably saying, "Well, Rebecca, this is all nice and well and good, but what does it have to do with your topic of supporting the local library?"
     I wanted everyone to understand how my love of libraries came about. I want my granddaughters and their children and on down our lineage to be able to visit a local library and fall in love with books the way I did. I want them to find supportive Librarians who truly love books and care enough to help young people learn to enjoy them too. Here in the States, our county tax dollars help fund our local libraries and I try never to utter one word of complaint about the portion of those funds which go to either the schools or the public libraries. But we need to do more.   
     We can donate used books to our Library system. We can buy books at their fund raisers and book fairs. Our local Libraries have groups called, "Friends of the Library," who donate time, money, and supplies so that more of the County funds can go to buying actual books and computers. I'm sure your local Library System has some sort of program you can help with if you ask. Please show our Libraries and our Librarians how important they are and how much we need them by offering your support if only by using the services. Sadly, the numbers of patrons and the volume of services used will often determine whether a library (especially a small branch) will receive the funds to remain open and recently those have dwindled in many areas. 
     The very best way to support your local library and keep it going is to use it.

Rebecca J. Vickery




Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree, Rebecca - we should all use our local library!!

Wonderful celebration of all the good things of libraries - thank you!

Savanna Kougar said...

Wow, Rebecca, that is a love affair with libraries. And, what wonderful words to give to your family.

I loved the bookmobile, available during the summer.

I shared many of your youthful experiences with libraries, and adored most of those authors. Though, i didn't have one wonderful librarian mentor as you did.

Yes, the way to keep your local library is to use it and support it the best you can.

Bekki Lynn said...

Awesome, Rebecca!

Memories and our excitement for it is what keeps it alive. I love that my youngest spends a lot of time there. They had built the new library across from the high school.

No excuse now for kids not getting there. lol

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Lindsay, Savanna, and Bekki,
So glad to have brought back good memories of the library. I think our young people went through a period where they thought only "geeks" and "nerds" hung out at the library. I hope that phase is passing with the new technology entering our library systems.
Great posts this week, everyone, and I'm trying to catch up on them.

Destiny Blaine said...

Hi Rebecca,

What a great post. Thank you for sharing your memories and pictures.


Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Destiny,
Thanks for dropping by. I know you are crazy busy! I love that pic of the old Bookmobile. I wish someone would restore one like it for display at our Fund Raisers. LOL

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Rebecca, what a great blog. Here in Charlotte, people volunteered their time to the libraries in order to keep them open. Nothing like a volunteer. I, too, love libraries even though I love ebooks. Sometimes just being in the quiet of a library brings me inspiration.

Linda Banche said...

Look like I'm no the only one who loves libraries. You have a great system. Lucky you.

Celia Yeary said...

Oh, Rebecca--that library is gorgeous. You did a wonderful job of telling us about it--it sounds magnificent. I think all authors grew up loving their library. Thanks for showing us--Celia

Rebecca J Vickery said...

HI Sarah, Linda, and Celia,
Thanks for stopping in and for loving libraries too. I love our main building and it is beautiful, very techno friendly, and filled with wondrous things, but I find myself using the small branch in our community more. The large library is always more crowded and it is less "cozy" than our small branch. But for some research projects our main building is unbeatable.

Cheryl said...

Hi Rebecca,

What a wonderful post! I loved our library, too. It was an old, old brick building with a long flight of stairs that you had to climb. The front door off the street opened to an enclosure and this flight of stairs -- I mean, there was barely room to get inside before the stairs began. You climbed up the stairs and there was another door at the top, an old heavy wood door with a glass window and gold lettering "PUBLIC LIBRARY"
"SEMINOLE, OKLAHOMA" When you opened that door it was one of those libraries that was just so ancient and lovely I could have lived there. That wonderful smell of books and all things "library" and our little old librarian for whom her job and her books were her life. She was an old maid, and had a humped back, but the sweetest smile and she was just so kind. Thinking back on it now, I realize how hard those stairs must have been for her to get up and down. Her name was Goldie Barnett. My mom would go to the beauty shop every Saturday morning, and I would have her drop me off at the library and occupy myself perfectly well for the next 2-3 hours. I never got tired of books, and loved to just wander the aisles.


Fiona said...

I took all 4 of my kids to Storytime at the library until they started school, since I didn't put them in preschool. We spent many happy hours pouring over books they wanted to have read to them. Now they are adults, they still like to be read to, and all are avid readers. I buy the family membership in the Friends of our local library, and have always shopped their yearly used book sale. This year I donated my Mom's books (she can't see to read anymore), and am volunteering as a sorter. I've also offered to host a speech/discussion on e-publishing. I love libraries!

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Cheryl and Fiona,
Miss Barnett sounds like a wonderful fixture in your special library, Cheryl. So glad to have helped you remember her.
Fiona, WAY TO GO!!! Please keep up the good work. I know your librarian appreciates you.

LK Hunsaker said...

Hi Rebecca, I loved your account of finding the library for the first time! I could just see you there, gaping mouth and all. ;-)

Yes, support from the community does matter. It's good to see how many of us authors are doing so.