Family tradition

Ask young children what they want to be when they grow up and they’ll likely answer, “Superhero!” or share a profession they know like fireman or policeman. As teens, this may change to “NFL player,” or another profession that makes an ungodly amount of money. Then reality sets in and they must think about how to pay for college, or how they’ll support a young family. Those fortunate to have parents and teachers guide them will make good choices in behavior, study hard and learn to get along with adults. If they continue on that path, they will succeed. That may not make a lot of money, but they’ll be more likely to have enough and hopefully choose to do something they love.

Last week, my family lost my step-grandmother Ruth. She was nearly 96 when she lost her battle to Alzheimer’s. Her parents were built-in guidance counselors, by example and through their support. She was very proud of her father, who was raised in a small farming community with four brothers and sisters. The family couldn’t send him to college, so he worked hard and earned his way. He graduated from Indiana University in 1908, and began work as a bank clerk. He married an educated woman named Helen and together they raised two children, Owen and Ruth. He continued to work for a trust company, then the family printing company. He began his own real estate and insurance company in the 1920s, and later his own printing company.

Ruth began school and worked hard to earn good grades. She was especially fond of music and drama, interests she retained the rest of her life. The Depression changed everything for the family. They moved often, but managed to retain their printing and advertising business. Ruth graduated from high school in 1938 and also attended Indiana University, majoring in History. She worked in her local library as an assistant, and then an apprentice. Her brother, drafted in World War II, died in an accident in North Africa in 1943. After her father died shortly after, Ruth remained in her hometown for several years to help her mother run the family business.

Intent on continuing her education, she left for Philadelphia. She receive her second degree in Library Science, the field in which she’d remain the rest of her life. She worked as a children’s librarian in Bronxville, N.Y. and later as a cataloguer and reference librarian in Lake Worth, Florida. She retired after working there 33 years.

Ruth - PBJC Library

She never suggested I follow in her footsteps, but may have mentioned it to my mother. Mom encouraged me to volunteer at my hometown library at age 14. After receiving my work permit at 16, I was employed there and remained until going away to college As I begin my eighth year as a library director, I can’t help but think about the difficult path Ruth took to attain her dreams. I’m proud to have continued the family tradition.

Visiting other libraries

It may be a strange past-time, but I really enjoy visiting other libraries when I have time to do so. Most recently, I traveled to Topeka and then on to Manhattan for a library meeting. This gave me the opportunity to tour Manhattan Public Library and Topeka-Shawnee County libraries. Of course, these libraries are both located in much larger towns than Pleasanton. But I always get ideas that I can apply when I return to ours. An added bonus is to see what they have available in their bookstores that I can bring home with me.

Having never been to either of these libraries, I was glad the director of the Manhattan Public Library had time to give us a guided tour. This way, we could see more than the average visitor. We went behind-the-scenes to the basement where their Friends members sort donations of materials and ready them for their big book sales. Soon these sales will be held in a huge room on the same floor as their meeting rooms. What really stood out in my mind was the fabulous sculpture that spanned two floors at their entrance. A modern stainless steel rendition of an Aesop’s fable, we had to look hard to see the animals among the leaves of a huge tree.

Aesop's fable tree

Their newly renovated children’s area was larger than our entire library and filled with light, bright colors and child-friendly furnishings. There was an emphasis on crafts and there was a huge story time space. Our meeting space was large enough for 200 people, so our meeting of about a dozen was dwarfed by the room.

Saturday, I took extra time before returning home to visit the Topeka-Shawnee County Library. It was even more impressive than the first. The high ceilings, marble walls and art exhibits were magnificent. A friend gave me a tour through the entire library, and allowed me time to photograph the various rooms and fun décor in the children’s area. There’s even a giant dinosaur whose head pokes through the ceiling!

dino break

There were no checkout clerks, as cardholders used their cards at a machine that reads the barcodes of a stack of books all at once. Have fines? No problem. You can swipe a credit or debit card to pay them and be on your way. That’s not to say there weren’t any librarians around. Everywhere you looked there were clerks shelving books, answering questions and researching.

My favorite room was their genealogy room, which was furnished with beautiful antiques. Their books contain records from all over the United States for those researching their ancestors. I can’t wait to visit again. I encourage you to do so, too, should you ever find yourself in our State Capitol. The public library is truly a treasure.

Resolved to become even better

I watched Karen Kingsbury’s “The Bridge” recently. It’s the story of an independent bookstore owner trying to keep her store viable in the face of rising Amazon sales, and e-readers. She realized it was the connections they made with visitors that made people return. Librarians have known this for some time. We’re encouraged to be create ways to remain viable. Some large libraries provide book vending machines outside, free for those with a library card. Others hold author programs, book clubs, music events and Storytime programs.

Our library has held author visits for adults, performers for kids, and sponsored a marionette show at the school. I visit libraries when traveling and one thing we do they many don’t is get to know our visitors. We call them by name, learn about them and their reading habits. We have customers who are voracious readers and appreciate having at least six-10 books waiting to be picked up on a weekly basis. We purchase five-day-a-week courier service so books, as well as movies, can be quickly transferred between libraries. Most items arrive in about a week. We also locate hard-to-find books for those doing research for school or personal reasons.

Sometimes visitors share health and family concerns and we take the time to listen. It’s this social connection that makes us different from the tired cashier at Wal-Mart or big booksellers like Barnes and Noble. Like the latter, we offer comfortable places to sit and read, or work on a laptop. Some of our couches are so comfortable we find children lounging to read a book. We’ve even found a few people napping. Our “Bistro” allows visitors to have coffee or a snack while using their laptop. Some people bring their lunch and stay to study or charge their phones. With a full kitchen, it’s easy to make yourself at home.

We try to make people feel valued. We’re not just pushing books, but making them as accessible as possible. Those who check out books or movies at the library on a regular basis can save hundreds of dollars a year. Soon, we’ll show that value on their checkout receipt. They’ll be amazed, since many new fiction books cost over $20. TV series DVDs can cost even more, and are highly sought after by those without cable.

We receive many donations to shelve or place on the sale rack to raise money for new materials. Our Friends group holds craft and bake sales to raise funds for the same purpose. Their annual Christmas coloring contest for elementary school children offers book prizes for the winners. Preschoolers receive monthly visits for stories, crafts and snacks and in November local volunteers participate in Kansas Reads to Preschoolers.

There are other things we could do to improve the library, with time and people to plan and facilitate them. We are resolved to do this and would love your help to make your library a special place.

Christmas rush

Members of the Friends of Kansas Libraries-Pleasanton held a successful chili and bake sale Saturday at the library, but there are still some goodies left, so come check them out in our Bistro Cafe. Thank you to all those who squeezed in time prior to the holidays to make baked goods and chili. They also held a Christmas coloring contest through the elementary school and received dozens of entries. Winners were announced Monday and can retrieve their original entry and book prize at the library. They can have their photo taken, and winners will appear on the library’s Facebook page, as well as the school’s Facebook page. Congratulations to all the winners!

In addition, several of our generous patrons donated handmade crafts for last-minute shoppers to purchase. There are adorable angel ornaments, scrapbook candy matchbooks and hand-crocheted scarves. The prices can’t be beat, some visit soon before they’re all gone.

We want to thank everyone who participated in this year’s Best in Linn County contest. It’s great to have so many residents supporting local businesses and all those who work hard to make Linn County a great place to live and work.

This Friday, we’ll begin having Holiday Story Time each day the children are out of school. Miss Lia has a collection of holiday books chosen and crafts that complement the stories. If you can bring your children and stay to help with crafts it would be much appreciated, as we are short-handed this time of year. Older children are welcomed to help with the younger ones as well.

We’re still in the process of decorating the library for Christmas and it’s given us an idea for next year. Visit to see the big tree in our “old” library corner and think about what a great space it would be to host Santa for photos. We could hold a Christmas party with treats and each child could receive a book from Santa. If we start planning now, we can make this happen. In the meantime, we have this Christmas to enjoy.

So much hustle and bustle trying to get ready for the holidays! But after the big day, there will be some time to relax, snuggle under a blanket, sip some tea and read a good book. Or, maybe you’d rather watch a new movie. We’ll have plenty of both that you can check out at the library.

‘Tis the season

Like many of you, I spent the weekend getting ready for Christmas. My first stop was Concern in Mound City to donate some items. Their front window is packed with Christmas trees and décor, just waiting for someone to adopt them. I checked in at the library to give Bonnie a break and pick up additional donations. Since the weather was mild, I walked to Mary Jo Leisure’s open house and family craft fair to sip almond tea and purchase gifts. It was fun to see her lovely home and get to know her oldest daughter who introduced me to Peanut Patties, a Texas favorite. Afterwards I popped into MeeMaw’s for my go-to comfort food and was served with a smile by Mindi Wisdom. Then Rodney Kimlin offered to carry in the donations for a new mother expecting just after Christmas.

I traveled to Louisburg to a shop called Simply Se-lah, decked from hall to hall with Christmas décor and cheer. I viewed holiday cheer personified as a group of friends from Olathe entered the store in high spirits, dressed in Christmas outfits. One lady even wore a wreath of tiny lights on her head. I encouraged the shop owner to photograph them near the giant Santa on display and post their photo on the store’s Facebook page. The website overflows with photos of families and friends enjoying the holidays. It’s quite the contrast to the evening news.

I spent the afternoon fighting tangles of Christmas lights for our home’s front porch. With help from my patient husband who replaced bulbs, the end result was magical. Our house sits off the road with woods behind and can now be seen at night. We can’t compete with the Krull home on Snow Hill Road though. Their home rivals those on TV!

After dark I opened boxes of Christmas décor. There are more decorations than I have room to display, so I was selective. The process was long, as I was distracted sipping hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies on television.

This week we’ll decorate the library for Christmas as well. We’ll pull out boxes of decorations collected over the years. We have more space to display than I have at home, so the result will be fabulous. Once again Theresa Miller volunteered her decorating skills to turn the library into a winter wonderland. Her services are invaluable and the result is definitely worth a visit to the library.

Beginning Friday, Dec. 18 and continuing through the school break, we’ll have a Holiday Storytime each day at 1 p.m. Miss Lia will read and help children make crafts to take home. If your children want to participate in such an activity, please join us.

Grateful hearts

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, we thought we would tell you some of the recent comments about our library that visitors, board members and staff shared with us.

“I am very thankful for the very nice ladies who work in the library.” A young student said, “I like that it has free Wi-Fi,” and “Me, too,” from his young friend. “I’m thankful for the helpful, nice ladies at the library. It is a very good library – enjoy going to it.” “ I’m thankful for the nice help and the wide selection of movies, and such a nice library location.”

“We are thankful for all the help when we are looking for certain books.” “I’m thankful that we moved to this library, and for the Millers who remodeled the interior and also for Wendy and all the good helpers we have.”

“I really like the Gettysburg address hanging in the restroom.” “This counter [circulation desk] is really cool!” “I’ve never walked into a library before where I felt instantly at home. But that’s how I feel here.”
“I love reading your column in the newspaper.”

“I’ve been in several libraries before, and this is the best one.” “I’ve never been here before. What a beautiful library!” “Most beautiful library I’ve ever seen.” “This is a really neat library. I’ve never seen one done up like this. So homey.” “This is a wonderful library! I’m new to the area and will enjoy using the library.”

“This is my favorite Linn County library. The atmosphere in here is so nice. I can feel it as soon as I walk in the door.” “I’ve been in all the libraries, and this one’s the best.” “This library is awesome. It really is.” First time visitor – “You have a very nice library here.” Long-ago visitor – “You have a very nice library. I haven’t been in here since you moved. It’s so much bigger.”

“I really love the library!” Out-of-town visitor – “It is so comfortable in here.” “Even the restrooms are cute.” “The landscaped area looks fabulous!” “This is the homiest library I’ve been in.”

“This library is beautiful! It’s homey, welcoming and traditional all at the same time.” “Your library is so nice now … very homey!”

As director, I am thankful we have such dedicated board members, who give their time and who make thoughtful consideration to decisions that keep our library running smoothly. Their support as we moved to this facility made it possible to make design and décor choices that made us feel competent and appreciated. We also have a great staff who work as a team to give visitors the best service they can. Our visitors are friendly and we enjoy seeing them when they arrive to choose books and movies.

Holiday storytime

We’re planning to hold storytime during the school’s holiday break. We have not set a time yet, and will ask visitors if they have a preference, as well as on Facebook. We’re thinking mornings around 10:30 on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays, but we’re open to suggestions.

Computer Access

The library has free Wi-fi access. We have seven computers with Internet access available for patron use, plus two computers designed for children over three years of age. Our newest children’s computer is an AWE tablet, containing 60 games that maximize your child’s early literacy learning.

Please remember our computer use policy limits time for patrons to 30 minutes, with a maximum of one hour. If you have a library card, you may be asked to show it so we can check for overdue materials. Computers shut down 10 minutes before closing. We no longer provide headphones for patrons use, though you may purchase ear buds at the circulation desk for $1.50.

National Friends of Libraries Week, Oct. 18-24

This week is National Friends of Libraries week. We’d like to thank those folks who brave cold weather to sell baked goods to raise funds for the library. They help with book sales and sell candy throughout the year to garner monies to purchase new books and make improvements to your library. We appreciate all they do, and are grateful for their efforts. You are welcome to join their efforts. Call Shirley Smith, 352-6840 or Sherry McCulley, 352-6294 to learn more.

Our board and employees also work hard to improve your library. Every time an employee or board member learns something new about our field, we try to implement it. Even in some small way, we utilize what we’ve learned in an effort to make the library a better place. This week, we’ll host our library consultant as she introduces a webinar to train the board about fundraising. These programs are free to us through our district office, the Southeast Kansas Library System in Iola.

This same organization piloted the Applied Public Library Education program several years ago to teach new rural library directors to become better informed about running their libraries. The process included a couple of intensive, two-day training sessions, plus a minimum of 60 credit hours of additional courses. I was honored to be part of this pilot program, which I completed in 2014. Since that program was piloted, it has been expanded statewide.

That doesn’t mean my education ended. Across Kansas, we are encouraged to attend additional classes each year to stay current with changes in the library world. Library board members are also able to increase their knowledge by viewing webinars, and are invited to join me at the annual meeting in Iola each June for programs.

Libraries have changed considerably since my early teen years. I worked as a volunteer, then an employee at my hometown library. I read to children, shelved books and later, helped at the circulation desk. Life was simpler then. All we had to checkout were books, but there were about 20,000 of them. We were not automated. There were no computers, video games, audio books or DVDs. Yet the library was crowded with people visiting to check out books for their children and themselves. Students spent afternoons at tables researching for school papers, and completing homework.

Today, there are many more options at the library. In addition to those mentioned above, we have author programs, summer reading events and meetings are held in the board room at the back of the library. It’s still a busy place, and not nearly as quiet as my hometown library. That’s fine with us, as we are happy to see the library being used to enlighten and brighten the lives of those in our community. The library is a valuable resource and we appreciate the support of those who care about its future. Help us wish our wonderful volunteers Happy National Friends of Libraries week!

Board of Trustees Meeting

Pleasanton Lincoln Library will hold the rescheduled January board meeting tonight, Wed., Jan. 27 at 5 p.m. The library is located at 752 Main St. in Pleasanton.

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