Hotstuff: The many things a library can be
Call me a wimp or scaredy-cat all you want, but I just can't abide horror movies.
Alfred Hitchcock, however, had a way of drawing even a scary-movie-phobic person like me into some of the plots of his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series that aired in the late 1950s.
Still, I would only watch the program if my dad would join me, and if it looked right away like the episode would be one of the suspense masters' more wry than macabre offerings. I wish I could remember the name of the episode that scared me the most, but I've not yet been able to find its title or story line on the internet.
The segment most horrifying to me was about a mild-mannered little guy who loves books and spends most of his time perusing the New York City public library.
That's where he is when a sudden catastrophe wipes out everyone, except him, in the city (and maybe the entire United States or world, my memory's hazy on that).
Anyway, there he is – the only person alive – at one of the world's greatest libraries, where he can spend the rest of his days reading any thing he chooses with no interruptions or people to bother him. It's a dream come true and he's ecstatic until, to his horror, he drops and shatters his eyeglasses, without which he can't read a thing.
Unable to read? A horrifying thought for me, a born bookworm. My mom used to tell me about the first Christmas we got to spend with my dad in 1945, after his World War II service in the Philippines and discharge from the Navy. I was 3 years old and Dad made sure Santa left me lots of toys, a rocking horse and two or three little books. Mom said on Christmas morning, I was at first excited by all the shiny new toys, but then spotted the books and wouldn't touch anything else until I had “read” them all several times.
When I was older, I often used a flashlight under my bed covers to read books when I was supposed to be sleeping.
In my teens, like many of my Fort Smith High School classmates, I spent lots of time in Fort Smith's landmark Carnegie Library, a building which now houses Channel 5 TV's Fort Smith studios, reading and studying. And I still shudder to even think of not being able to read a book, newspaper, magazine, album cover or anything else with words on or in it.
I also can't imagine a city or a world without libraries.
After my husband and I married and moved to Iowa in 1961, I worked as the periodicals librarian at the Davenport Public Library. Honestly, it was probably like having an alcoholic work in a liquor store. With an almost unlimited supply of books available to me, and my husband working nights and going to college during the day, I devoured about a book a day – until our first baby was born three years later.
Years later, after being a stay-at-home mom with our five children, I became a stringer news reporter for the Davenport newspaper, the Quad City Times. Covering nearby Muscatine School Board meetings was one of my assignments. The meetings were held in the city's library, which had the good fortune of being a favorite recipient of funding from Roy Carver, chairman and founder of Bandag Inc. and the manufacturer of Carver Pumps.
For a city of its size (about 20,000 residents when we lived there in the 1970s) Muscatine had an amazing library. Couldn't find a book you needed? Inter-library loan from the University of Iowa. Wanted to host a dinner party? You could do it with a library card. You could make a new dress from a checked-out dress pattern. Type invitations on typewriters provided for library patrons. Find menus from the cookbooks and music from the library’s extensive tape and record collection. From this library, you could even borrow some framed, choice, ready-to-hang artworks to decorate your home! When our family moved back to Fort Smith in 1983, I didn't find our city library located downtown quite as versatile.
But by the year 2000, after Lynn Wasson and I had started this magazine, we were thrilled soon after to publish articles about the opening of Fort Smith's handsome new main library and three new branch libraries. Our library system today hosts so many special events, including poetry readings, author talks and book signings.
One of my favorite author events was when hometown hero C.C. Lockwood – and I call him a hero because his words, pictures and movies helped to save the Atchafalaya Basin – brought a real, live alligator to the library when he came to sign his non-fiction gator book.
The main library also has its own café, holds book sales and chocolate fests and I could go on and on. But I guess by now, you get the idea that this magazine loves our library and everything about it.
Now, the library has the opportunity to offer this community even more, when the rest of you who love our library, now and for what it will become, go to the polls and vote “Yes” for its future funding.
You'll find out much more about the library millage election at LibrariesChangeLives.us, the Fort Smith Public Library's informational website designed to answer why the library has asked for this millage support and what the library plans to use the millage to accomplish now and in the future.