Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Libraries Are More Than Books

Friday night last week our community library celebrated the 125th anniversary of its birth. I didn't know what to expect, but knew I wanted to attend, because I love libraries and also I serve on the Way Library Foundation Board. Steve and I drove the four miles "uptown" and arrived just a little past the 7 PM starting time. We could hardly find a parking spot! I think the projection of 400 people attending was right on the mark. With several singing groups performing, giant board games for the children, and birthday cake for all, there was something for every age group. And isn't that what a library is all about?

Library benefactor, Willard Way, even made an entrance from the past. He spoke about how he had decided to provide books and $15,000 to start the library. Willard was an attorney, who made much of his money buying and selling property that had gone to auction because of unpaid taxes. It sounded like he might have been a bit of a scoundrel, because his wife tried to leave him at one time, but he ran after and found her so he could reclaim the jewels he had given her. Williard also tried to remove her false teeth, because he considered those his property, too.

Libraries have played a central theme in my life. In the small Western New York farming town were I grew up, I loved climbing the worn steps to the second floor of the town hall where the librarian always had a good recommendation. By the time I was Senior Girl Scout, I needed a community project. I chose to work in the library, Yates Community Library, which had moved to a store front in the middle of our one block main street. The library cards in the back of the book helped me to know whether it was worth reading or not. If there were many names listed, it was a must read. Conversely, if there were only a few entries, I might place the book back on the shelf. Talk about word of mouth! During the early years of my adulthood, just like Willard Way, local townfoldk, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, gave money to the village to establish a real library building. I don't remember the amount they gave, but do remember that the town had to match the money in order to receive the Smith grant. Unlike Willard, Mr. Smith had made his money canning applesauce from the plentiful orchards in that area.

Libraries form a network across the world. They help people connect whether it is through discussing a book or sending email from the library computers. Libraries keep communities strong.

What part of your childhood continues to play an important part of your life today?

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