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National Library Week April 9-15: Libraries Transform

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This week, Camp Verde Community Library is supposed to be joining libraries nationwide to celebrate some of the ways libraries are transforming their communities every day through the services and invaluable expertise they offer. April 9-15 is National Library Week, a time, according to the American Library Association, to highlight the changing role of libraries, librarians and library workers.  And, it’s true, Libraries are more than a place of quiet study. They are also creative and engaging community centers where people collaborate using new technologies, grow alliances, maybe learn how to build a 3D printer or even listen to Music in the Stacks. As libraries evolve, so librarians are tasked with learning new skills and generally keeping up with the changes.

The goal is to use the “Libraries Transform” campaign to remind our community of some of the groundbreaking work we are doing, highlight the amazing resources we have, and explain the useful services or skills we provide. All true! But, it feels like a message for another time and place. In my mind, National Library Week is the one week of the year when we get to express gratitude to our community for all the support we are given, for how so many of you come into our library every week with good cheer and good will, and for the fact that the work of supporting the Library in Camp Verde did not end with the move into this beautiful new place we work in and from. There’s no truer statement in the campaign then, “Because of You. Libraries Transform.”

Just over five months ago, we moved from our small, battered, but loved 45,000 square foot, 40+ year-old library into this brand new building designed for both beauty and functionality. It was a bit like moving from an old barn into a mansion. In these five months, many people have told me what a great job I did, how we wouldn’t be where we are today if I hadn’t come along at the right time, and how proud I should be of what I’ve accomplished. And, I am proud. But not of myself. I realize that I have played only a small part in the decades-long work required to get this library built. I’m proud of our community, honored to be part of the effort that put us where we are today.  Also, really glad that all the crazy work of building and moving is done and I can begin to catch up in places I have been neglecting, like writing this blog.

When I take a moment to brag on the Library, know that I am bragging on you, Camp Verde. Libraries are evolving to meet the needs of the communities they serve but not every library is as fortunate as we are to have a community of individuals supporting them, advocating for them, keeping them on their toes. The library embraces the entire community, offering unlimited opportunities for personal growth and lifelong learning. Libraries level the playing field for people of any age who are seeking the information and access to technologies that will improve their quality of life. Libraries also offer something unique to their communities, the expertise of individual librarians. Librarians assist patrons in using increasingly complex technology and sorting through the potentially overwhelming mass of information bombarding today’s digital society. This is especially crucial when access to reliable and trustworthy data is more important than ever. If, at Camp Verde Community Library, we are transforming lives in any way, shape or form, it is, because of you.

Because of you, we have much to be grateful for, and I am hard pressed to express our thanks adequately, especially when seen in the light of all you have given. I am reluctant to start thanking people by name because nearly everyone in this Town has given to the library in one way or another and I have no doubt I will leave someone out. Whether you bought a bottle of “library water” or “attended” the Phantom Ball, donated books to the library or bought them at a book sale, walked away with a once-in-a-lifetime find at the auction or donated to for sale. Or, maybe you just said, “keep the change,” when paying for overdue fines. We wouldn’t be where we are today without your support and we thank you.

Deep breath. Here goes, naming a few key people who got this whole project going… starting in 2000 with the vision of the charter members of the Camp Verde Library Endowment (CVLE). Thanks to Yona Ash, Betty Chester, Phil England, Vaudene Glotfelty, Pat Hjalmarson, Vada Lovato, Baltazar Lozano, Sharon Massey, Fred Sanchez and, driven forward by Dorothy Wood, the original investment of a couple $10K  has grown to nearly $420K. Thanks to people like Charlie & Linda German, Larry & Jeannett Teets, Alice Derrick and Ann Martin, Jim Ash, Laura Gagnon & Co., Irene Peoble, Ambie Charles, Diana Hopper, Debbie Schwalie, Amber Polo, former Library Director, Gerry Laurito, and so many more – for keeping “Dorothy’s Dream” alive. “Because of you. Libraries transform.”

Then, in 2008 Linda Harkness and Charlie German started the Citizens Committee for Camp Verde Library (CCCVL) a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated specifically to building a new building. Board members, Linda, Karen Heuman and Judy Feldstein set themselves the task of growing a $250K donation from the Kay Watkins’ estate by Camp Verde resident, Larry Watkins into what would become more than $417K presented to the Town of Camp Verde eight years later. Thank you! It is, “Because of you. Libraries transform.”

We thank you for every fundraiser, every Denim & Lace auction, every letter written and envelope sealed, every cookie baked, every picture taken, every design drawn, every cent collected, counted and deposited toward our account. Only you know the hard work, the sweat and aching muscles, the tenacity required to finish the job, the exhaustion at the end of the night. We appreciate the sacrifice each one of you made so that “Dorothy’s Dream” of a modern library with more capacity to serve the community and the funds to make it happen could become a reality. “Because of you. Libraries transform.”

And still, the all-volunteer work continues every day. In addition to those who have donated dollars to us, there is a tireless group of volunteers we will never be able to repay or adequately thank. These are the people who get into the nitty-gritty of our daily work, people who  have committed their time and expertise to meet our scheduled needs week after week throughout the year. From the volunteers who work at the circulation desk to the newly formed 501(c)3, Friends of Camp Verde Library Board and Book Nook volunteers, every single minute given to us makes a difference. In the past 6 months, we averaged 46 volunteers/month giving 740 hours/month. That’s an incredibly generous gift of time and energy from people who have many other interests and obligations.

Others like, Camp Verde’s Tree Advisory Committee designed and planted the Library grounds. The men fondly called, “the Old Guys,” have been seen weeding, refurbishing benches, and putting flowers in our planters. One young mom is voluntarily tending our Monarch Way Station and seeding the area with wild flowers. Our community is giving to us in ways we cannot even count. Though it sounds trite, truly, we would not be where we are or do what we do without you. Thank you for all that you do for us, Camp Verde! It is “Because of you. Libraries transform.”


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My Library Story – Von Hatch

2=12 (14)If Arizona had a backwoods, that’s where I would have been born in 1947. I was born into a family that was short on money but long on seeking knowledge. We had books and it was expected they would be read. By the time I entered kindergarten, I was an accomplished reader. Thank you, Mom. Libraries were a place to get books and, for me, that justified their existence. I don’t remember there ever being “children’s programs.” It seemed to me that children were barely tolerated- seen and not heard. Didn’t care. Books.

I got older and did the things most people did: got married, had babies, worked, and paid taxes.

Then one spring and summer my life changed. I lost my wife, retired and dealt, as best I could, with all of that. Along the line, I realized that I had more time on my hands than I had things to do. I tried some volunteer work at an organization that delivered food, clothes and perhaps some hope to less fortunate members of our community. It was, and remains, an excellent organization, but I didn’t feel a connection between it and me. I drifted away.

At the same time, I discovered that I was about to lose communication with an old, dear friend whom I had known and loved (off and on) for over fifty years. Conventional methods of communication were out of the question and I had no idea what the solution might be. She did. Her solution to the problem was email. What a perfect solution! Why hadn’t I thought of that? Mostly because I had only a vague idea of what an email was, and I had no computer. What I did have was a giant attitude about the cyber world in general, and it’s relationship to me in particular. As you might well guess, I had no warm and fuzzy feelings about computers. My ego and I stood on the brink; I could keep the attitude, or keep the friend. No brainer…eventually.

As it turned out, my little library in Camp Verde, Arizona was beginning a computer class geared for geezers who had no computer skills, no cyber concepts, and brought a bad attitude about computers to class. I learned how to email and, as far as I was concerned, I was done. I missed the lesson on copy and paste because I was busy emailing. Having no computer, I was forced to drive to the library most days to do my emailing. Over a period of time I came to the attention of Alice, the Alpha Female, of the library. She felt the library would be the perfect place for me to volunteer. She had a point. I was already there a lot, I enjoyed the people I came in contact with, and I sort of owed her for answering all of the questions I should have asked in class. And it came to pass that I volunteered.

Over the course of the next couple of years, I learned much more about computers in general, our library computer system in particular, and finally came to the point where I was actually able to help others with some computer issues. Imagine that! I also spent much enjoyable time with patrons, swapping books and recipes, admiring their art work and commiserating with each other over those ungrateful brats that sprang full blown from someone else’s forehead but that we were expected to raise.

And then, miracle of miracles, a paid, part-time position became available. Larger miracle still, I was able to trick some people into the idea that an over-fed, long-haired leaping gnome like me was the perfect fit for this position. This position involves working with teens. Don’t worry about your first gut reaction,most people think the same thing. The problem is, as much as we would like to confine them to some remote island far, far away until they “grow up,” they are tomorrow’s butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and bosses. The future belongs to them and no matter how much we fret about it, it is less and less our problem. So now that’s my mission: try and turn apprentice human beings into a more journeyman state. I am aware that some of the rest of the village is involved in this project as well, and it is the duty of all of us to do the best job we can.

Are they sometimes aggravating? Yes. Are they clueless, filterless, and seemingly brainless from time to time? Need you ask? Are they exciting, occasionally wise beyond their years, and a pure joy to be around? Often enough. Are they worth the pain? No pain, no gain. I often wish I had done a better job with my own kids. Second chance? Hell yes.

Oh, and the lady and the emails? 1200 notes later…happy dance.


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My Library Story – Amber Polo

Polo, Amber 06 14 ccrop smallOnce upon a time (that’s book talk for a very long time ago) I was a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin and I worked part-time at the Madison Public Library.

The building was new and everyone was so proud of it. This is a story the Associate Director* told me.

A patron was leaving the library as the Associate Library Director was entering. The woman carried a stack of books and a young child. The Librarian opened the door for the woman.

The woman said, “Thank you. I wish the library had book bags.”

The librarian replied, “We are doing our best. There is so much to do.”

The woman looked confused. “You work here?”

The Librarian nodded.

The woman shook her head and walked away. “It’s getting so you can’t tell librarians from people.”

*Orrilla Blackshear’s award as 1962 Wisconsin Librarian of the Year honored her love and knowledge of books, her professional enthusiasm that inspired her coworkers, her excellence as a book selector, her enrichment of many lives in the guidance of reading, her efforts in integrating the services of the Madison Public Library into the daily life of the community, and her contributions to continuously improve public library service in the State of Wisconsin.

At the time of her death, she was the volunteer librarian of her retirement home. In a feature in the Wisconsin State Journal, she articulated her philosophy, “The real joy for me in all this work is being able to bring the right people together with the right book.” Peers and patrons alike certainly would attest to her lifelong success in achieving this goal.

Amber Polo’s love of books drew her into a career as a librarian.  A greater love turned her into a writer. Amber’s urban fantasy series The Shapeshifters’ Library  is filled with books, librarians, and a library everyone will love. Plus dog-shifting librarians and book-burning werewolves.


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Library of Congress, District of Columbia, 1970 – Helen Zimmerly

Helen2At that time, researching family history, I discovered reference to a letter from a great aunt of mine to the then president of the United States. Curious, I inquired at the National Archives and was directed to the Library of Congress, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., District of Columbia. So there I went.

Unbelievable! Staggering!

Stunned as I walked through the doorway into the Main Reading Room of the Jefferson building, built in 1897, I thought, this is incredible! The massiveness of the interior overwhelmed me. A marble staircase beckoned to be tread-ed. Silence surrounded me. My heart stood still. My eyes wandered everywhere attempting to absorb the imposing, surrounding beauty. Look there! Eight foot high Ionic columns of marble supporting archways beneath the rotunda which hold 10 foot high allegorical female figures carved into plaster. Colorful art work with a lot of gilt resides in the underpinnings of the rotunda and everywhere. The interior design is based on the Paris Opera House.

I learned materials used in the of the interior construction consisted of marble, granite, iron, bronze. The original floors of the Reading Room are a checkerboard pattern of of light and dark brown cork with marble boarders and walls of Indiana limestone.

People where walking about or sitting at long desks with green shaded lamps set in a semi-circular pattern studying books and papers. The atmosphere was surrealistic.

A gentleman approached, a staff member, and inquired as to how he could help me. I explained and he said, “Sit here,” motioning to a set of comfortable leather chairs. I did and he disappeared into the bowels of the surrounding stacks which I learned were holding miles of books and paperwork. (Today, 2016, the Jefferson holds 90 million items and 540 miles of shelves.) Tired of sitting and people-watching, I began to wander, taking in all the wonderment around. I overheard a young woman asking a clerk for information on the history of ballet. To this day I wonder why she wanted that information.

Eventually the gentleman returned to me and stated the information requested could be found in the Presidential Papers Collection Archives in Salisbury, MD. That search proved to be unsuccessful. However, that visit to Library of Congress is a page in my life I shall remember forever.

Helen Zimmerli has written for local newspapers and magazines through the years. She was a political campaign publicist for a contender for the N.Y. State Senate, worked for CBS network News, Manhattan, N.Y. She was the public relations person for the bicentennial in Belmont, CA. and currently writes a blog for the Camp Verde Bugle. Helen writes poetry for relaxation.


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If There Ever Were a Palace; a Tribute to Miss Gifford – Ann Metlay

Ann MetlayIf there ever were a palace, and a queen to reign within it, it was Miss Gifford at the Northbrae Library in Berkeley, California. I walked into her court with awe. On all sides of her throne were festoons of books. To her right sat the picture books. I never tired of Bartholomew Cubbins, nor the sights on Mulberry Street. I chuckled every time I opened Blueberries for Sal to see the baby bear eating from Mother’s bucket. I loved the logic in A Hole is to Dig, the witty responses in What Do You Say, Dear?

Miss Gifford placed the chapter books to the left of her throne. The first time my father helped me to leaf through the pages of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Miss Gifford approached and spoke in a dramatic way, “Why Ann, you must be ready for a library card.!” I practiced over and over, carefully fitting my name within the little square asking for a signature. That accomplished, I found it difficult to select only five books a week to take home. There were the books about Freddy the Pig, the wonderful doughnuts in Homer Price, and my favorites, Betsy, Tacy and Tibb. Miss Gifford believed it did not matter I only came once a week, and devoured my books before the week ended. “Just read them a second time,” Miss Gifford instructed in her rather imperial tone.

My favorite books, the non-fiction ones, resided under the window. I checked out the bird books over and over. The bright red cardinals and the golden-yellow finches pictured between their covers seemed more wondrous than any fiction book I’ve ever read. Once I asked Miss Gifford when I might be able to see an indigo bunting. “Aaah, Ann,” Miss Gifford intoned, “Those birds all live east of the Mississippi River. They can’t fly all the way to Berkeley.”

I also treasured the geography books. They sat with rigid drab-colored spines and few black and white illustrations. I had no need for pictures. The author’s descriptions of the Grand Canyon, the autumn trees across the Blue Ridge Mountains, gave them all the color, the textures worthy of any jewel in this palace. When Miss Gifford read some of these books aloud to me, she imbued them in a cloak of mystery beyond their physical presence.

Miss Gifford cloaked herself in dress as drab and modest as the books over which she ruled: Long dark-colored dirndl skirts and hand-knit monochrome sweaters, wire-rimmed glasses, mousy brown hair. It was her eyes which served as precious jewels befitting the queen she was. Little wrinkles creased their edges. I remember, with love, how they sparkled as she spoke of her beloved subjects, her books.

She came for special visits to our elementary school. On those occasions, she held court in a corner of the classroom. It seemed to me sunbeams found their way to her seat in our otherwise drab classroom.

Many will speak of their favorite teacher. I had Miss Cooke, my kindergarten teacher who cast my entire class in a gay nineties revue, and let me be a beautiful doll to my boyfriend’s dapper top-hatted gentleman as the class sang “Let me wrap my arms around you, I can hardly live without you.” Mrs. Nelson, my 11th grade biology teacher and sponsor of the Parapsychology Research club, picked me up at my home on meeting days so we could have a record player as a part of our research projects.

How lucky I was to receive the gift of a favorite librarian. Miss Gifford shaped my life and my love of reading in a way no teacher ever did. She treated me as if I were one of her treasured subjects. She always knew I could read. Sometimes she pointed out a word in one of her books to me, explained its derivations, its roots. And I could always read.

As a child I told everyone I wanted to grow up and become a librarian just like Miss Gifford. I believe it was her influence which led me along a tangled path which included becoming a reading specialist.

Ann Metlay was born and raised in Berkeley, spent 40 years teaching special education and reading, and moved to Cottonwood 5 years ago. Ann is involved in many forms of creativity, including teaching workshops for the Camp Verde Community Library, and is watched over by two mini dachshunds. She is the author of a book of short stories, It Happened in the Cottonwood Library Parking Lot.


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The Poet and Me – Diane Johnson

Diane JohnsonWho is Wesley McNair? I now knew that the distinguished, bespectacled man with the closely clipped white goatee staring from the newspaper page was the Poet Laureate of Maine, and I had already decided I disliked him.

Each year, the “Let’s Talk Books” group at the New Vineyard Library sponsors a local author’s night. This was to be its fifth year. To date we had a local lawyer who writes crime novels; a young man from the university who had written his first young adult fantasy novel; our tired local game warden who has written numerous books based on his adventures as game warden; and a Maine Guide who writes informational books on outdoor activities such as hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. But this year the Poet Laureate of Maine was coming to this rural town of 750 residents. It is a real honor and would require a little more work to ensure success.

None of this would have come to fruition if a local resident wasn’t friends with his wife and made the initial contact. Not to worry she assured me it’s free. I went ahead and contacted Mr. McNair to set a time and date for his presentation. The state requires me to charge a fee he tells me. Will that be a problem? Oh, no, I tell him (what happened to free I thought) we have funds set aside for such things. What is the fee? Two hundred and fifty dollars he replies. Really? With a more than slight shudder I tell him it’s no problem, but I’m silently thinking I may be paying for this one myself.

Well, the fee issue was eventually worked out thanks to pressure from an influential couple in town, but the publicity issue was something else all together. A write up in the paper, posters saturating the area, and a blog on all the event calendars. This had to be done right. As luck would have it, however, Wesley himself came to our rescue. He provided all the publicity as he wished it to be worded. Well, that saved a lot of work. Maybe I’ll change my opinion after all. Wrong. Well before the event I raced to a local printer and had professional posters made, at no small cost to the library. Then several of us ran around the area making sure all the posters were up in plenty of time. The article went to the paper and we were pleased with the results.

Email number one arrives. Mr. McNair has decided to change his focus and attached is the revised publicity. Are you kidding me? I call my co-chair. I am not going around and confiscating all those posters and going to the expense of making more. Not to worry she says. I’ll make up a word burst with the new information and we’ll glue them to the original posters. Great! We spend an afternoon making up the word bursts, cutting them out, and running around gluing them on to the originals. I contact the newspaper and get a reprint to run. No harm, no foul, just a little extra foot work. Email number two arrives.

Mr. McNair has decided to revamp his presentation to cover more of his journey as a poet. Are you kidding me? Tell him we’re canceling I scream into the phone. My co-chair, a little calmer than myself, says not to worry. She’s used to working with divas. We’ll put up new posters but they’ll be from my computer on 8 x 11 paper. Period. And she did. I’ll be forever grateful for her calm, cool, demeanor. My excitable self was ready to throw Mr. McNair to the curb. I was not looking forward to greeting him. But greet him I did.

A tall, distinguished man, he filled a room. He greeted me, and anyone he spoke with, warmly and humbly. I was questioning my own judgment call. And then he spoke. How can a man speak so softly yet so powerfully. I was mesmerized. I hung on every word. I was a fan.

Afterwards he couldn’t have been more complimentary of the refreshments, the attendance (we actually got 45 residents to show up), and the attention given to detail. He even followed up with a thank you note. I now have decided I misjudged a very talented man who can be a diva if he wants, he’s earned it!!

Diane Johnson is a retired academic advisor and basic skills instructor. She volunteers at her local library where she also hosts a book discussion and a writing for fun group. She has published in several magazines and had a regular column in a local paper for over ten years. Presently she resides in New Vineyard, Maine and Lake Montezuma, Arizona with her husband, cocker spaniel and two Maine coon cats.

Gads Hill Library, Chicago; Falling in Love withReading – Deborah Murphy

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Deborah Murphy imageAs a young girl growing up in the city of Chicago, I remember going to our local library with my mom. Gads Hill Library was about a half mile or so from our house, which usually meant about a 20 minute walk to get there. Of course, when you’re eight years old it seems a lot longer. I loved the children’s area where there was a small table with some chairs so you could grab a book, sit down and look through to see if it was check-out worthy—usually it was.

Back in those days only two weeks was the time for you to have your book to read but I always took out at least eight to ten books. It wasn’t unusual for me to read a book a day and have read them all before we even needed to get them back to the library. Mom was an avid reader and I am really happy that she offered the opportunity for exploration into the realms of the written word.

Then I really liked mysteries, and also gravitated to books set in England. I’m convinced now, after a visit there, that it was where I lived in some of my past lives. And, for reasons that have now been revealed to me, I really loved horses and was extremely excited when I found a novel that centered around them. No one in my family had any background in horses but I cannot recall a time when I wasn’t fascinated by them. And, when I found a book set in England, that was a mystery and included a horse in the story I knew I’d hit the jackpot!

As I got older I began discovering other things the library offered—movies, CDs, a variety of workshops and seminars, places to meet that were quiet, and all the newspapers, magazines, and periodicals–oh my! Now, you can even get more information at the library as most of them now have computers which offers even more opportunities for people to learn about the world around us.

My local library now is in Cottonwood and I just checked online and discovered my old library is now called Gads Hill Center and it’s been in existence since 1898! Wow, who knew that I was going to one of the oldest libraries in the City of Chicago. Now, it makes me even happier to know that this place of learning and education provided knowledge in the distant past, is providing in the present time and will also provide in the future! Go on, you know you want to visit one!

Deborah Murphy has made the Verde Valley her home since 2014. Deborah has a Reiki practice and offers to facilitate tours to Peru. Her upcoming book is entitled Evolving with Adaptability: Who’s Driving the Car, a short guidebook on the road from ego to soul focusing on behavior modification.


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Library Experience – Allen McKinzie

DSCN0942Hi neighbor, my name is Allen C. McKinzie!

I have lived in the Verde Valley for 20 years, before that retiring from the Phoenix Police Department, subsequently having a heart transplant 22 years ago.

I am pleased to share my very first Library experience, which had a direct relationship to my publishing five novels and six children’s chapter books in later life. My greatest measure of personal writing success was being selected as a Keynote speaker at the 2015 Cottonwood Author’s Forum.

Ironically, there are some parallels with Babe Daley’s experience.

Living in a very small town in Louisiana, I was raised by a single Mom. I was the oldest of four children, being as poor as dirt. The school I attended was grades 1 thru 12, about 400 children all told.

It was extra hard, both scholastically and socially, for most of the people were of French descent, speaking a French dialect. We had to learn quickly in order to survive. My life changed forever when my second grade English teacher saw something in me, giving me special attention. I didn’t like the complexities of English, but I liked words and stories.

She was a large kindly woman, who one day after school took me by the hand and introduced me to our one room Town Library and the Librarian. She explained to me that in this little room was the key to the World and my future. And all I had to do to open it was to read the books.

She knew I had seen a cowboy movie and was fascinated by the West. Therefore, she presented me with my first library book, a Zane Grey western. I read all of his and subsequently countless other westerns, expanding to other genres.

The librarian would smile when she saw me coming, knowing I would be checking out several at a time. I was her best customer! Had it not been a free library, I would have read none of them. Only the affluent could afford to buy books back then!

By virtue of all this reading, when in eighth grade, I scored the highest I-Q of anyone at the school ever, the equivalent of 1.2 years of college! And I always had a vivid imagination. It was my escape from the poverty and many hungry days and cold nights!

Therefore, I will always love the librarian and that teacher, both long dead. I consider a Library to be the keystone of every community, the securer of our knowledge for the present and the future!

I praise the visionary government who voted to build this new library, amidst much criticism. As this representative of ‘faith in the future’ towers above the Town, the doomsayers will soon recognize its value to the entire community, and be as proud as those who supported it! I think it will draw businesses which are sorely needed.

Kudos to those who hung in there!

Thanks for listening!

Allen


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The Privilege of Understanding – Julia Connolly

“A self-leader cries for no followers by himself. He does his thing and people get to know him, chase him and learn from him.” — Israelmore Ayivor

Julia Connolly imageSo it is for many authors. They have something to say … a story to tell … they risk telling it and hope that we will listen.

I’ve been in search of and chasing great authors my entire life. I owe that curiosity to two people – a woman whose name I never knew and James Hilton. They introduced me to literature for, in our house, there were no books.

Barely age 10, I woke up one morning and heard my mother crying. My older sister simply said “Daddy died.” No other words about it were spoken to me. I adored my father and was confident that he would never leave me without saying goodbye. So I waited … and waited for him to return.

Each night I had the same repetitive dream. There was a large ballroom with a black and white tile floor, several large pillars and an upper balcony that encircled it on all four sides. The balcony was packed with people but they all had their backs to me. I was by myself downstairs across the room from its only object, a casket containing my father’s body. As I slowly approached it, feeling frightened and alone, I would glance upward hoping that someone would help me. Just before I reached the casket, suddenly everyone on the balcony turned towards me. They had no faces. At that moment, I looked into the casket and saw that it was not my father – it was me. Every night I experienced this identical nightmare. It was just as fresh and frightening each time. When I awoke from it, I’d force myself to stay awake. My broken heart was racing.

In the late 1950s children were to be seen and not heard. I had no one I could turn to in my grief and fear. My mother was trying to cope. My older siblings were not around. My younger sister was only 5 years old. I felt invisible. After school, I did not want to go home. I wanted to run away … far, far away.

While wandering the neighborhood, I passed a storefront and saw books in the window. There were shelves of books and several people were reading. A door opened and I peered in. A woman asked me if she could help me. Afraid to speak, I shook my head and turned to leave. She asked me if I would like to spend time in the library. I summoned my courage and asked her, “What is a library?”

This librarian showed me around and the next day I went in search of my first book to read. I chose Lost Horizon by James Hilton. Each day after school, I went to the public library to read more chapters. I now had hope, something to look forward to, and a grand sense of adventure. The librarian and James Hilton became my mentors.

We did not have a car so I was limited to wherever my legs could take me. The farthest thing I could see was a water tower and I promised myself that someday my friends and I would see what was on the other side of that tower. I was pretty sure it was Shangri-La until I read the Wizard of Oz and then I was positive we would see the yellow brick road.

As time went on I discovered a world of interesting people: Alexandra David-Neel who inspired my dreams of adventure and travel; Charles Dickens who understood my heart; Thomas Merton who understood my soul; David Grayson who explained contentment; H. V. Morton and Lowell Thomas who introduced me to other cultures; P. W. Joyce and T. P. O’Connor, two historians on Ireland, who are still teaching me about my roots; Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky who made you want to drink vodka; Margaret Mead and Isak Dinesen who made me appreciate cultural anthropology and animal behavior; Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith who enabled me to visualize African art and culture; Lassie who inspired me to become a dog rescuer; and Lewis Carroll who taught me how to throw a mean tea party!

I am forever indebted to that librarian who by one gentle gesture changed my outlook on life. To all of the authors who have become friends of the mind, soul and spirit, I say to you: Had you not taken the risk of writing your story, I would not be who I am … you have enriched the lives of so many people. Thank you.

I mentioned earlier that in our home there were no books. It was not until I was older that I understood why. It was then that I discovered that my mother had been the oldest of 12 children, eight of whom survived. In the early 1900’s in rural Ireland, only the boys in her family were allowed to go to school. The only book my mother had access to was the school book of her younger brothers. Looking over their shoulders as she waited upon them, my mother taught herself how to read and write. My mother read the daily newspaper cover to cover and on Sunday, she read three. She often said to me, “Always protect your eyes, Julia. They allow you to read.” I regret that I never brought my mother to the public library. She would have enjoyed it.

“The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance.” Libba Bray

To that I must add: It opens our eyes and hearts to wisdom, gratitude and love. Libraries provide the privilege of understanding.

Julia Connolly is a resident of Lake Montezuma. Retired from Marketing Management and New Product Development, she has become a contemporary art docent, an aspiring author, a photographer and a fiber and mixed media artist. With faith and humor, she has been a child advocate, a disability advocate and a dog rescuer for 50 years. Julia loves to travel.


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Where Have You Been? At the Library – Mike Bove

Mike Bove image copy“I spent a lot of time in the library at school, that’s where the smart girls were.” I wrote that for one of my books, but it’s true. I spent a lot of time in a lot of libraries, and sat with a lot of smart girls, mostly at different tables.

Not so much in grade school, I stayed clear of girls then, and the librarian was a big mean nun, Sister Mary Something.

But, by Jr-Hi there was a blonde named Alice who often sat next to me in classes because our last name initials were the same. And, boy, was she ever smart. I was kinda smart, so we were in a bunch of the same classes. She was also pretty. I was nervous. Alice knew everything the teachers asked, and the teachers knew she knew all the answers so they stopped calling on her. They started calling on me!

This continued in HS, and I still never spoke to Alice, except “Hi,” or ” Scuse me.” I hung out in the library, because I thought that’s where the smart girls would be, and sure enough, I’d see her there frequently. And then, one day (it seemed that sudden) I manned up and began initiating conversations with her. Eventually, she took part. Later we would meet in the library after school to do homework. Later we would meet other kids at the Rexall after school for cherry cokes.

Then we graduated and I never saw Alice again until our twentieth HS reunion, and she may have still been smart, but was not still pretty.

However, in the meantime, there was college.

There was a girl I liked, but she wasn’t in any of my classes. Naturally, I looked for her at the snack bar, dining hall, and in the library. I kidded her about drinking tea, and she was amused when I turned my cake upside down because the icing was too sweet. I bugged her in the library, especially in the library, because there was not a ton of people around, annoying her at first, mostly about her being left-handed, or her long auburn hair and and abundant freckles. We soon were laughing often and loud enough to get thrown out. More than once. The first time was when I drew a picture of her with just a few short hairs sticking out of a bald head with predominant freckles and big ears with big holes and dangling rubber chicken earrings. That was because she wanted to get a short haircut and her ears pierced. I wasn’t sure I’d like her that way. She didn’t do it, not until a long time later.

By then we had discovered the grass behind the library.

Not right behind the building, but past some trees, up a small hill, and between some other pine trees. Standing at our spot we could see the library, but not if we were lying in the grass. The first time was for a walk, to get some air, since we had been studying seriously for a couple of hours straight. I was a Phys Ed major so I was able to help her out with her nursing courses. I think she was smarter than she let on so that I would help with the anatomy stuff. We often brought a blanket with our books to our spot in the grass up the small hill and studied more there than in the library. Weather permitting.

We went to our grass spot several times with no book or blanket, just to sit and talk during tough times, or to walk silently hand-in-hand at odd times. Back of the library, turn right. Where have you been? At the library.

While I was a public school teacher I spent a lot of time in the library. Working, planning classes. I noticed smart girls there. And smart boys, too. I knew what was going on. The boys were flirting, I mean studying, with Alices and future nurses. I would smile and secretly wish them luck, just a bit of the luck I had.

That was many years ago and I am still holding on to my luck, my nurse, my wife.

____

Mike Bove is an ex-teacher and coach, and also a retired postman from New England. He reads a lot of mysteries from the library or on his kindle and even wrote a couple of Bruce DelReno Mysteries,WillowTree and Stinger Maguire . He now lives in Cottonwood with his wife and golden retriever.