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The power of stories

We read them to children, we share them with our friends, we watch them in movies and on television. They inspire us, they teach us and they entertain us. Our lives are filled with them. They have been around for time immemorial, passed down from generation to generation, retold, tweaked and rewritten. Many storytellers were born to tell their stories. Some get published within their lifetimes, while others were only published posthumously. Some are lauded profusely, winning prizes and honors. While others reside in obscurity for years before being discovered.

Many of them end up in libraries for a time, and others remain on the shelves for years, and even centuries. The latter are deemed classics, and their authors’ names remembered through the years. These stories have been researched, analyzed, critiqued and explained. They are studied in high schools and colleges, with reports and theses required to be written by students. Some of these classic stories were initially written under pseudonyms, as it was the only way women authors could be published during their day. It was sometimes many years before the gender of those authors became known.

This was always also true about newspaper editors and reporters. One of those was a women right here in Kansas before the Civil War. When the abolitionist editor of a newspaper published in Quindaro became ill, his wife, Clarina Nichols, took over the publication to keep it afloat. She continued the paper as though she were him. As the paper was their only livelihood, this was a necessary deception. You can read more about her story, as well as many of the classics any time you visit the library. We honor women storytellers of the past and present day, but especially during the month of March – Women’s History Month.

National Library Day is April 11

Libraries are fascinating places that have long served as cultural gathering places. Even as more content becomes digitalized, 90% of Americans still agree that closing their public library would negatively impact their community. At, we have a great deal of respect for libraries and their long-standing history.

To show our appreciation, we wanted to highlight some of the most famous and beautiful libraries in the world. To do so, our experts assembled a list of 35 stunning libraries from around the world that you should see:

The Best Libraries In The World

Making space

With spring seemingly arriving a few weeks early, we’ve been getting busy cleaning. In this case, though, we’re making space on the shelves for new books. This also gives us the space to display good books you may have missed. We’ve watched as library visitors rush in to find a book, but might be distracted by their children. Or maybe they just have a couple of minutes to browse before rushing away to take care of other errands. Unless they’re after the latest book by a certain author, they may be stumped for what to select.

We’re here to help! Our brand new books are placed in a couple of locations in the library. You can find them on the south wall under the stagecoach sign for “New Arrivals” and will remain on display for six weeks. You can find other new books on the credenza behind the circulation desk. These are books currently on the New York Times Best Seller list, and they rotate as the list changes.

Since we’ve added many books and movies to our collection since moving in four years ago, we’ve had to install additional shelving. These had been stored in the back room until needed, but setting them up required some rearranging in order to find space. Rather then remove the comfortable furniture everyone loves, we must remove books and movies that are damaged, or rarely checked out. The many paperbacks collected over the years might have yellowed, and their covers show wear. This is good news for collectors, as these discarded books will be placed on our sale shelves for a month. If you visit near the beginning of each month, you’ll have first shot at selecting from these bargains.

Those that aren’t “claimed” by new owners might be passed on to local organizations like the Health Department, the Residencies, Walnut View Estates, the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Alliance or Pleasanton schools. Other items might be donated to Concern, or picked up by Union Rescue Mission in Wichita. Our very last resort is to recycle them ourselves. So, if you want to help give these discarded items a new home, we encourage you to visit and see what we have to offer.

A great time to do this might be next Thursday evening during the Music on Main! Jam Session, from 6-8 p.m. That way, you can be entertained by some great music as you “shop” for a few books or magazines. The funds raised by these sales help the library purchase new books and movies for your reading and watching pleasure.

The many uses of the library

It was another busy week at the library. We began with day-long tax assistance volunteers helping local patrons with online tax preparation in our meeting room. This service is available at the LaCygne and Mound City libraries as well. Appointments are required and can be made online, or by calling us at 352-8554. We can check the availability of appointments at all three libraries, or you can contact them directly. All these appointments are on specific Mondays in each of those libraries. This year, the preparers are working with new software that has had some significant issues, so they beg your patience as they do their best to provide you with this free service.

The meeting room was constructed with the intent it be used for library board meetings. When not used for those monthly meetings, it is also available for others. Registration for use of the room is preferred. There is no charge for the use of this room if used by individuals or non-profit organizations. Otherwise, there is a minimal fee for its use.

The room is also used for instruction for high school students. A visiting instructor provides guidance to help students complete core curriculum studies when traditional high school isn’t available. This takes place every other week during the day on Wednesdays.

Library board meetings typically take place on the third Wednesday evening at 5 p.m., though the upcoming annual board meeting takes place the first Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. Each year, one or two board members are re-elected, or the positions become available to other interested community members. The most recent meeting included an annual insurance report to reassure members about coverage after the possibility of bad weather and similar situations. The board members are thoughtful, conservative volunteers who help determine how best to utilize your tax dollars.

On the third Thursday of each month, the library’s children’s area is offered to Music on Main! Jam Sessions. These gatherings previously took place when the building was owned by Marsha and Morgan Brown. These lively get-togethers have entertained the audience and provided a comfortable and inviting space for the musicians. It’s difficult to tell who’s having the most fun at these events. The most recent jam session provided the Friends of Kansas Libraries-Pleasanton an opportunity to get involved. They baked pies, cut in slices to offer them to those in attendance.

Next week, we will once again welcome the Pleasanton Garden Group members. After their winter hiatus, I’m sure they’re excited to gather and talk about spring planting. Their programs feature a variety of informative speakers with topics that range from soil preparation to roadside flower arranging. For more information, contact Vanetta Sabine.

Of course, the library’s typical uses are in evidence daily, as community members of all ages visit to check out print and audio books, DVDs and use the computers and WiFi. Those who visit for the first time are always pleasantly surprised to find how comfortable and welcoming the library looks. Many visit again and again and share their praise with others. If you’ve never been to the library, please visit soon to seen what you’ve been missing.

Finding time to read

Though we read books about pioneer life, we can only imagine what it must have been like. Especially in rural areas where much of the day folks rose before daybreak to do chores so they could feed themselves. Their days were filled doing things that needed to be done in order to survive. Those days were physically strenuous, and must have ended early.

Before electricity, there were only candles and firelight to brighten their short evenings. Yet, they found time to read … and the language in them was complex. Children often went to school fewer years, and were released from classes to help with the harvest. Many attended one-room schoolhouses with children of different ages. The older children were expected to help with the younger ones. Their teachers often had little more schooling than them, and supplies were quite limited. Yet children found time to read as well.

Looking back, we call those times of simple living. But those early settlers had precious little time to themselves. Especially for girls and women there was constant work to be done to keep a household. The days were tiring, and nothing was convenient.

Over the years since the country was born, many conveniences have been invented or developed. We should have a lot of time to do as we please. But we also have many distractions. Our forbearers didn’t have to be concerned with filing taxes. They didn’t spend hours on the phone trying to sort out problems with their computers. Few of them found it necessary to commute to work through frustrating traffic. There were no televisions to distract them, and not even radio shows to crowd around and listen. There were no schedules of evening sports events to attend, nor endless trips to participate in the variety of lessons children today do. No phones to glance at every few seconds to see if someone has communicated with us.

Our lives can certainly not be considered simple. Yet, hopefully, we can find time to read. We can choose to turn off the TV, ignore the computer, turn on a light and sit quietly to read. We can choose to read any number of books those pioneers didn’t have available to them. Over 600,000 new books are published each year. Many are available electronically, and can be carried on a tablet or even a phone. We can read anywhere we choose, whether flying through the air, or sitting in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. We can take an e-reader on vacation. We can even read in the bathtub, provided we don’t fall asleep and drop the book in the water.

Reading is one of the joys of life, and many find they cannot get through a day without something to read. If bad weather is imminent, we stock up on reading materials and hope the electricity doesn’t go out. If it does, we’re content to cuddle under a pile of blankets and read by the light of a window. Reading is the best way to travel without even moving. A good book can distract us from the troubles of the world. It can entertain us, keep us company, and teach us about other lands and peoples. It can educate us about the past, and advise us about our futures.

Consider letting the gift of time to read into your life. You will be enriched in so many ways. Visit us soon to discover the multitude of choices in your library.

A nation divided

This past Sunday night, the second season of Mercy Street began on the PBS Channel. The first season is available on DVD, which we carry in the library and is available to checkout. According to the PBS Channel, Mercy Street is: “Inspired by real people and events, Mercy Street goes beyond the front lines of the Civil War and into the chaotic world of the Mansion House Hospital in Union-occupied Alexandria, Virginia. Mercy Street takes viewers beyond the battlefield and into the lives of Americans on the Civil War home front as they face the unprecedented challenges of one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history.”

In addition to the DVD, a companion book to the show is available at the library. The Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War tells the story of nurses, many of whom were volunteers from both sides who worked in terrible conditions to help care for the wounded. The book is based on in-depth research, but told in a way that makes it interesting to those who want to know more about the story told on the television show.

The Civil War was indeed a difficult time in our young history as a nation. Until the Vietnam War, more soldiers died during the Civil War than in all wars in which we were involved combined, and research continues that the number may have been underestimated. Many died from disease and the aftermath of wounds suffered on the battlefield. Much was learned by those in the medical field, as they struggled to keep wounded soldiers alive. With few resources, little training and the massive influx of wounded, it was learning with great expense to the nation. It especially affected the south, as the workforce was diminished more so than in the north. The rebuilding took years, and the wounds were not all physical. Even today, there is still animosity among some descendants of southern soldiers.

As brothers fought against brothers, the war divided families as well as states. Though the war went on for years, the Republic was saved. We were led by an intelligent, well-read man who struggled to overcome many personal issues and tragedies to hold the nation together. He was self-taught and well-spoken. He was a leader, and he kept the country from collapsing.

Part of this story comes to life in the PBS Channel show as it continues. It’s good to know more about our history, so we do not repeat the past. Watch, read more about it and learn from it. Our nation is worth preserving.

Literally a slippery slope

Sunday morning after donning thick socks, snow boots, two pairs of gloves, a cap, a long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt and heavy jacket, I took a careful walk outside to take a few photos of the ice around the yard. Despite cold temperatures and damp conditions it was quite beautiful! I can say that because I didn’t have anywhere to go, we had plenty of food, and the power hadn’t failed.

Before leaving work last Friday I made sure to check out a third book, and a couple of movies. I figured we’d have a run on DVDs that day, but I was surprised to find out how many folks visited to get books. Maybe their pioneer spirit had kicked in and they thought we might lose power. Then at least they could read by lantern or candlelight. We figured there would be a run on the grocery store, so we were glad to see everyone stocking up on books as well. OK, there were some optimists who checked out movies as well.

We know that having something to read is essential to a number of our patrons. They don’t watch much television, and like to stay busy. They have their favorite authors (who never write books quickly enough) and enjoy series. When they’ve read everything in our collection they want to read, we begin ordering books from other libraries for them. The books can’t get here fast enough. Thankfully, we have
new books arriving almost everyday. We also have books that rotate among the libraries in the Southeast Kansas Library System every six weeks. A new batch came in Friday morning, and I hurried to get them shelved for our visiting book “shoppers.”

Thankfully the weather is scheduled to improve this week, just in time for our next Music on Main! Jam Session Thursday, Jan. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. We’ll have snacks and beverages available, and look forward to the warmth of a room full of musicians and guests. If you play an instrument, don’t be shy. Bring it along and sit in with this fine group of pickers. All are welcome, and there is no charge for the event. We will continue to hold this event monthly, every third Thursday as long as we have musicians who enjoy getting together. So plan to join us, bring a friend or two and a snack if you can.

Good time to read, or listen

If I weren’t writing this column this morning, I’d be curled up on the couch under a blanket reading the latest book I checked out from our library. It’s almost as good as hibernating for the winter. You often hear about great beach reads to take on vacation. You see commercials where people lounge near the ocean, stretched out on a chair with their sunglasses, their hats and a cool drink. They always have a book in their hands. Well, you can approximate that picture this time of year. You just need to read a book that will carry you away to some southern locale to feel warmer during our current bitterly cold temperatures.

You don’t need to slather yourself in tanning lotion, and you don’t need to fly to some distant locale to imagine the sun’s warm rays. You just need a book that takes place somewhere warm and that holds your attention. We have lots of books like that in the library, so visit soon to get some suggestions. Instead of holding a book, you can keep your hands warm under a blanket by checking out an audio book. Then you can just listen and drift away to the tropics.

We also have quite a few DVDs that take place in warmer climes. You might consider checking out a few of those while waiting for Spring temperatures to arrive. We’ll pull together a selection of all of the above so you can choose one quickly before your car even cools down.

Be sure to visit before Thursday, Jan. 12, as we’ll be closed that day in order to attend staff training at our district library office. We’ll reopen Friday morning at 10 a.m.

If our cooler temperatures don’t bother you, come out the following Thursday, Jan. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. to hear the next Music on Main! Jam Session. The warmth of the happy crowd and the hot licks of the musicians will heat up the room as soon as they begin to play. All are invited, and there is no charge!

We’re already thinking about warmer temperatures as we begin planning our Summer Reading Programs for the year. This year’s theme is, “Building a Better World.” We’ve scheduled a fun storyteller and have talked with the local extension office to provide some programs on “building” a backyard garden. Watch for more information over the next few months.

If you have any comments or suggestions about books, movies, programs or activities you’d like to see, please let us know. We don’t have a suggestion box, but keep a notebook near the desk to jot down comments from our visitors. We welcome those you care to share, and will consider each and every one. Stay warm, Pleasanton!

Resolved: to learn more in the New Year

Did you know you can go on the internet and search Happy New Year for a list of suggested messages to wish your friends? Many think you can find any information you want on the internet. Because of that some think there’s no reason to have libraries, books or magazines. Of course, those of us in the library world don’t agree. In fact there is a wealth of information online, but how does one sort the truth from the fiction? It often takes more than one source to determine what is real from what is misrepresented.

So maybe libraries, books and even magazines can help with that. Librarians are trained to help you locate the information you seek in books, magazines, published articles and even online. We not only have a large selection inside our walls, but know where to look, who to ask and how to order additional information to find what is needed. We love a challenge, and we have visitors who love to challenge us. They seek hard-to-find old books and movies and we don our detective hats and go to work. If we cannot find the answers, we send out an e-mail lifeline to our cadre of Kansas librarians through a list-serv. We sometimes consider ourselves detectives of sort.

In the mid-sixties when I began my library career, my job was to read to children, shelve books and once I had some experience, to stamp and file cards. Much has changed since the advent of computers. We would like to say it has made our lives easier, but it has definitely complicated our lives. Now so many tasks must be accomplished online. Some who visit our library require assistance with forms, job searches and other online tasks. Once again, we love the challenge and do what we can to assist. Can’t get that document attached to your e-mail to print? We will seek a workaround. Need copies of receipts, or need to send a document by scanning it, we can help.

I’m sure 2017 will bring many changes to our world. They seem to occur more rapidly than ever before. While predictions are written in books, they take time to publish. Magazines are produced more rapidly and some contain more in-depth articles about new inventions and important information. What we don’t carry in the library, we can often borrow from other libraries in our connected system. Not only can we search within Kansas, but beyond. Want to learn more about your world? We can help you find it. Need a book in order to write a paper for school? Let us help you find the research information you need. Looking for an ancestor you cannot find? We can show you Heritage Quest on the state library’s website, or point you to our fine local Linn County Genealogy Library.

Want to learn a new craft in the new year? We have books galore, and can find more. Interested in a movie you heard about? We’ll do our best to locate it, or consider purchasing. Just let us know. So start your New Year off right by calling, or better yet visit us and challenge our skills. Each of us has an inquiring mind and can help you improve your search for a more interesting new year.

Holiday movie overload

If you’re like me you may have picked up some nasty bug going around and spent some time at home recently … feverish, coughing, sneezing and achy. Sound like one of those endless cold medicine commercials? Well, if you’re lying on the couch covered with blankets watching movies while you recover, you can relate to all those commercials. You’re miserable, so you self-medicate by watching “happy” movies. I’m sure the producers, directors and actors hope you’ll feel after watching one. But do they really make you feel better?

With little else on TV this time of year, you must choose to watch them or the endless re-runs of old movies. So you watch, and you see the same actors in a string of movies with similar story lines. One of the characters, usually the woman, has lost their Christmas spirit, is overworked during the holidays, somehow escapes the big city and ends up in a snow-covered, idyllic small country town. The town is filled with happy people going about their lives, who warm the heart of the stranger, and by the end of the show the main character finds love and leaves the city to become the town’s newest resident.

I did a short survey about how much movie you actually get to watch among the commercial breaks that accompany those shows. For every eight minutes of movie, you must watch 11 to 13 minutes of commercials! It must cost a lot to produce those movies that are supposed to make you feel better. But if that doesn’t do it, the medicine the commercials offer might do that medicinally.

Maybe if I get well by the time Christmas rolls around, I won’t be so miserable. But even then, I won’t expect real life to be like those movies. When it snows here it’s usually accompanied by bitter cold and ice. You won’t see me frolicking about in a cute plaid mini skirt and tall boots tossing a scarf around my neck while I scurry down the street for a latte like the movie characters. I’ll be properly dressed for the weather, and my heart will be warmed by the love of friends and family I care about all year long.

It doesn’t have to take a trip to an idealized town in North Dakota to make one feel good about the holidays. All it takes is one heartfelt gesture toward a regular human being you may never even meet. Do something nice for someone just to spread the joy of Christmas. It will warm your soul and make you feel better. We at the library hope you all have a very real Merry Christmas!

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