Weekly update from Pocahontas County Free Libraries
Pocahontas Libraries swings into 2012 with new promise and refreshed hope. Activities and projects continue to swirl about in all five branches, with local community volunteers providing active leadership and "roll up your sleeves" work.
Durbin Library snuggles cozily in a Main Street storefront. The backroom is now attractively fixed up as a children's area. Meanwhile, the new building under construction is enclosed and buttoned up for the winter. Interior construction will commence again in early spring. The completion date will depend upon further acquisition of funds, volunteer help and materials. If all comes together nicely, some services might be operable come fall.
Linwood Community Library at Snowshoe continues to expand its programming. Another International Dinner will be held this winter. Children's programs are held weekly. A partnership with Pocahontas County CVB is working out nicely. A fresh newsletter is out now, accompanying an appeal for much-needed financial support. The library in Snowshoe's former Welcome Center is absolutely stunningly attractive. Watch for innovative projects to come forth in 2012.
Green Bank Library is beginning to plan to upgrade its facility, thanks to a contribution from the estate of long-time supporter Emma Beard. The metal shelving might be replaced by more functional, attractive wooden shelving. A long-awaited parking lot expansion might be added. These plans are still in the conceptual stage.
McClintic Library continues to have strong book circulation. Numerous community organizations gather in the busy meeting rooms. A weighty challenge involves repairing, replacing or displacing the main room air conditioning unit that had constant problems last summer. Clay Carter, our construction engineer, and Laurie Cameron, a knowledgeable volunteer on HVAC, are working on a recommendation.
Hillsboro Library continues to buzz with vibrant community activities. Through a recent partnership with the Hillsboro Fire Department and Future Generations, a 10-station computer learning center is in place. A radio studio for WVMR-FM will be built in the office this winter. Due to the tightening of space, planning has begun toward a modest-sized addition.
PCFL will continue to develop projects and build partnerships. "Beyond the Yew Pine: The Hammons Legacy" should have its first phase completed by spring. The work will include a DVD and an accompanying booklet of 30 stories of the Hammons family as recorded by Dwight Diller 40 years ago. The Traveling 219 project continues to engage the history, lore, and culture along the Rt. 219 corridor, staffed by capable VISTA volunteers Roxy Todd and Emily Newton. The Pocahontas Historical Records Preservation project, headed by BJ Gudmundsson, is scanning valuable documents and photos of historical interest to preserve and share for future generations. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library continues to sign up new pre-school age youngsters to receive a free monthly book. And though PCFL is disappointed to have curtailed school library teaching programs necessitated by a shortfall in school-based funding, McClintic and Hillsboro still warmly hosts elementary school classes during the week.
Pocahontas Libraries accomplishes its mission due to a hardworking professional staff, a cadre of caring volunteers, the generous support of individuals, businesses and government entities and the encouragement of our local population that is proud of its libraries. We enter 2012 in confident hope for good things to happen.
Books make excellent Christmas gifts. Not only are they great for book lovers, but almost anyone will appreciate a new book that deals with a subject they enjoy. Magazine subscriptions can also be excellent gifts. If someone enjoys quilting, receiving a book gift on quilting expresses the thoughtfulness of the giver. An illustrated book on deer hunting can likewise convey appreciation for a hunter's pastime. A book gift makes for cozy reading on cold, long-winter nights.
There is another gift, related to the first, which can be especially potent. That gift is reading a book to a child. Many of you reading this column will remember the bedtime story of your own childhood. Sadly, the opposite is also common. That is, many who do not or cannot read this newspaper did not have bedtime stories read to them as children. The correlation between being read to as a child and that child growing up as a capable, motivated reader is very high. Indeed, studies bear out that the highest indicator of a child's future academic success is the degree to which that child is read to by an adult.
My wife and I are most grateful that our parents read to us. We passed that trait on to our own kids, who now as grownups are reading daily to their children. Our grandchildren love books. One of our most enjoyable interactions with our grandkids is cuddling up together to read a story.
Family literacy is known by the underlying philosophy that parents are a child's most influential teacher. Family literacy programs work toward equipping and motivating parents to be effective influences on their children.
Stories are a great way of easing your child into bedtime. Dr Mark Harrold, Child Psychologist and spokesperson for Nestl� Munch Bunch writes: "Bedtime reading should be part of every child's nighttime routine. Aside from the obvious benefits of encouraging reading at an earlier age, it helps children drift off into a restful night's sleep. It provides a very natural bridge from the chaos of the day to the serenity of night. And it affords parents one of the few opportunities during the day to enjoy such a level of intimacy with the child." (www.mummypages.ie)
Here are Dr. Harrold's tips for a restful bedtime routine:
(1) Parents should make weekly trips to the library with their children so that children can enjoy a variety of books to fire their imagination; (2) Aim to have as consistent a bedtime routine as possible with few deviations; (3) Keep it to one story each night.Otherwise you could end up with a very long bedtime routine.; (4) Make the bedtime story the last activity before lights are turned off; (5) Always inform your children well in advance that bedtime is impending; (5) Be sure to keep updating your book collection on a par with your child's age/ability level.
As I write this, my memory flies back six decades. I'm a small boy sitting on Dad's lap, as he reads, "Twas the Night Before Christmas, and All Through the House, Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Mouse..." At that impatient time, my mind was stirred up by visions of presents under the Christmas tree. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my parents were giving me a much more valuable and long-lasting present, simply by reading to me.
One of the ongoing debates in the "gender wars" is how much behavioral difference is due to conditioning and how much is in the chromosomes. From the day of birth, many parents dress their boy babies in blue and their little girls in pink-that's conditioning. On the other hand, infant girls have earlier, more sustained eye contact than little boys. Twelve-month-old boys are more apt to opt for watching windshield wipers moving (motion), while 12- month-old girls more often prefer to watch people talking. Of course, there are many exceptions, and filtering out gender conditioning is daunting.
Which leads me to the issue of gender preference in reading materials. Book publishing houses conduct studies to get the edge on profitable marketing. But such studies are important for other reasons, such as in education of our children. After all, providing books that motivate a youngster to read is likely to cultivate a stronger, life-long reader.
A Harris Poll finds that male, as well as older readers, are more likely to gravitate to non-fiction than female readers and those who are younger. This certainly is true in my situation. When I was younger I read a mixed blend of fiction and nonfiction, but now I am almost exclusively non-fiction. My wife, Debbie, reads, I would guess, 75% fiction and 25% non-fiction. I haven't surveyed our PCFL library staff, but from conversations I sense that Hillsboro Librarian Elwood Groves reads almost exclusively non-fiction, while our female staff is much more oriented to fiction. The gender exceptions tend to fall along the lines where non-fiction books on quilting, self-help, and healthcare books are popular with female library borrowers. And many of our men borrowers like "cowboy" westerns, historical fiction and novels involving politics and high tech action.
I suppose movie tastes are similar. My wife and I sometimes check out a DVD from the library for a Friday stay-at-home date night. She likes "girl movies" while I prefer long documentaries. We try to bear with one another.
There is no question that women buy, borrow, and read more books than men. One reason offered for this difference is that women are more likely to enjoy getting together to discuss their books. Book clubs tend to have more females. A controversial retort is that men lean more toward complex, heavier-themed materials. Female advocates then counter-retort that while men might gravitate toward fact-based or statistic-based works, that the psychological and social interaction themes favored by many women can be every bit as complex.
Some couples read to one another. Jesse and Joan, my son and his wife, take turns reading books out loud during car trips. Debbie and I have not made that work for us. We do discuss some of the books we read, and every once in a while we read the same book (invariably nonfiction in these cases).
When I was a kid, our family would visit my grandparents for extended visits at their dairy farm. I had long periods of time to find something to do, and discovered my aunt's girl-based Nancy Drew collection. I read all she had, maybe two dozen books, and enjoyed them.
As an adult, I am eclectic enough to find at least some interest in just about any music, film, or reading in short doses. Of course, each of us has our preferences. And that's fine, because the fact that our world has great diversity of interests, preferences and yes, gender differences, makes for a wonderful world to live in.
Introductory basic college courses are sometimes referred to by the number "101," such as English 101 or Economics 101. Such courses provide an overview, or framework in which to build further specialization. In this column, I will attempt a brief synopsis of our county library services, and title this Pocahontas Libraries 101.
Libraries are at their core a place of books. Libri is Latin for book. PCFL's five branches contain well over 70,000 books. Our shelves are saturated, so for every new book we receive, an older book must be removed (called weeding). Older books usually go into a book sale, which raises some money to buy newer books.
The libraries tend to shelve books in Adult, Young Adult (teens), and children sections. It is important to note that these categories relate primarily to reading abilities and interest levels. All books are accessible to all readers. Books that we do not have in our collection can often be procured for a reader through Inter-library loan.
PCFL also has more than 2,000 audio books and music CDs. Those on cassette are being replaced by CD format. Audio books are popular for those who do long commutes to work or who take long trips, since listening to a book passes the travel time quickly. We have also now have as a new service downloadable print and audio books on portable media devices.
Well over 4,000 videos are in PCFL libraries. We are now just buying DVDs; however, we are keeping our higher quality VHS tapes and encourage folks to check them out. Quality DVD donations are always welcome, since they take little space and are popular to check out.
Internet computers are in every branch. We try to keep enough computers so that people do not have to wait for a turn. Space constrictions can be a challenge. For example, at our Durbin Library we have a couple of laptops for table use when our computer booths are filled. Besides the Internet, our computers have software such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Fax, copying, and laminating are services we have, with a modest charge to cover supplies and equipment maintenance. Since McClintic has an especially high volume of copying, we have just installed a high speed color copier that can also print from thumb drives and the public computers.
Tools for research are an important facet of public libraries. This includes specialized books ranging from encyclopedias to law books (at McClintic) to maps, to statistical compendia. Digitized databases are also an important asset. The library commission provides the fabulous Information Depot at www.wvinfodepot.org Ask your librarian for a password to use at home. We also subscribe to Ancestry.com, the premier genealogical research database, which can be accessed at any of our branches. McClintic Library has a dedicated computer with The Pocahontas Times newspaper digitized and searchable by key word from its earliest beginnings in the 1880s. McClintic also has the Foundation Center's searchable grant resource database, a powerful tool for nonprofit groups and individuals seeking funding.
Equipment is also available to borrow. LCD projectors are popular for those showing PowerPoint presentations and movies for community groups. Other audiovisual equipment includes a slide projector, a 16 mm film projector, and an overhead projector. We also have "The Nature Equipment" which includes a wide array of high quality tools and aides for enjoying nature. Such equipment includes telescopes, binoculars, microscopes, collection nets, egg incubators, metal detectors, night vision scopes, motion detection cameras, GPS units, fishing equipment, and more. I should add that it is best to call ahead to reserve such equipment as it might need to transferred to your local branch library.
Your libraries are here to serve you. Please avail yourselves of their many offerings.
Most of us have heroes who inspire us. One of my heroes is Ken Hechler. The first time I saw Hechler was at a Pioneer Days parade in Marlinton in the mid-70s. A consummate, crowd-loving congressman, Hechler was driving his trademark red Jeep. The 97-year old Hechler still has a red Jeep, but had to give up driving a year ago due to a vision problem.
Having an eyesight problem has not kept the indefatigable Hechler from writing books. Indeed, he has written and published two books this year, and is working on two or three others. One of these books, "Soldier of the Union," is taken from letters passed down from his ancestors, George and John Hechler, who served with the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. The book provides a vivid account of the trials and tribulations faced by the two men, from their camp life at Parkersburg and Summersville, to the bloody battlefields of Lewisburg, Antietam and Chickamauga. Pocahontas Libraries has a copy in this collection and will be getting another one or two more for our numerous Civil War readers.
I attended a dinner tribute to Hechler last Saturday evening in Charleston. I felt extremely honored to receive a personal invitation from him. About 50 people attended, representing the wide array of Hechler's life involvement. Retired librarian Steve Fesenmaier and current West Virginia Library association head Monica Brooks were in attendance. Other fields included a number of environmental activists, several state politicians, former pages, civil rights leaders and historians involved with Nazi war criminal prosecution.
On this latter note, Hechler had an interesting aftermath to World War II. Hechler was a chief interrogator of Nazi war criminals in preparation for the Nuremberg Trials. In August this year, Hechler published a major academic work, "Goering and His Gang." This huge volume, four or five inches thick, includes a fully documented account of Hechler's 1945 interrogations of Hermann Goering (The number two man to Adolf Hitler) and hundreds of other Nazi military and civilian leaders, including Field Marshals Wilhelm Keitel and Albert Kesselring, Lt. General Alfred Jodl and Admiral Karl Doenitz. If anyone is interested in Pocahontas Libraries acquiring a copy, let me know.
Hechler was an Army reporter during World War II, and authored the best-selling book, "Bridge at Remagen," which later on was made into an acclaimed Hollywood movie.
Hechler holds a Ph.D in government and history from Columbia University, where he also taught. He also taught at Barnard, Princeton and eventually at Marshall which became his entry point into West Virginia. Beginning in 1949, Hechler was a White House assistant and speech writer for Harry Truman, which is detailed in one of our library book holdings, "Working With Truman."
Someone at the dinner tribute last Saturday mentioned that Hechler spent time interviewing Albert Einstein, and that the two of them shared similarities, such as extremely messy desks and offices (but they knew where to find everything), and their lamentable state of dress (mismatched and out of style coats and pants and socks, etc.).
As a Congressman for two decades, Hechler championed coal miners, sponsoring legislation on black lung and safety. Hechler also fought (and still fights) strip mining environmental abuse. "The Fight for Coal Mine Health and Safety" is Hechler's work describing his courageous fight for worker safety, another work in the Pocahontas Libraries collection.
Hechler's independent political courage was manifested when he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, the only Congressman to do so.
Hechler, at age 97, continues to be an outspoken champion for justice, continues his writing toward forthcoming books, and travels extensively to speak at colleges, Chautauquas, historical gatherings, book signings and environmentalist gatherings.
Ken Hechler exemplifies "a life well lived." Or as one of the speakers last Saturday noted, Hechler exemplifies the highest calling for any American, and that is to be, in the fullest sense, a "Citizen."
About 30 children signed up for a monthly free book at the Imagination Library launch day last Saturday. There were games, a magic show, prizes, face painting, and more. Begun by the Dolly Parton Foundation and funded by the West Virginia Legislature, the Imagination Library mails a book every month to children until they reach the age of five. Children who are read to at an early age are more apt to become better readers when they go to school. There are no income eligibility guidelines; however, the child must be a resident of Pocahontas County. Children will be able to sign up at public libraries, the WIC office and FRN.
E-readers are booming in popularity. The reason is simple. A person can carry an electronic device that contains dozens of books, magazines, newspapers and the like on an "easy on the eyes" screen. Font sizes can be customized up to large print. And books can be downloaded quickly, and often at less expense than the purchase of a print volume.
A consortium of West Virginia libraries, including PCFL, now has the capability to lend E-books to patron E-readers. To access this service, a patron will sign up at a PCFL branch. After this, the patron can download available books onto the E-reader. These books will be available for a few weeks or until electronically checked in. The books will expire at the close of the checkout period. If someone else has the book, it must be checked in before it is available. Patrons can be placed on a waiting list for a book. In other words, the E-books will operate similarly to print books in that they are borrowed.
McClintic librarian Vicky Terry is undergoing training on the Overdriveﾮ system. Besides offering E-books, Overdrive offers audiobooks and music on mp3 format. Overdrive offers a wide range of E-reader compatibility including iPodﾮ, iPhoneﾮ, iPadTM, AndroidTM, Sonyﾮ Reader and (just added), the Kindleﾮ, as well as other mobile devices. Our library consortium will start out with a modest number of titles that will increase over time. We expect this to be a popular service at very low cost to PCFL, and free to patrons.
Of course, PCFL libraries will continue to focus on developing and maintaining strong print collections. However, the E-books will add a further dimension in broadening our library services scope. I expect that Vicky Terry, a frequent contributor to this column, will be explaining the new Overdrive service in more detail, as well as orienting our other PCFL staff to help our library patrons with this service.
A whirlwind of library-related activities is swirling through Pocahontas County. I say library-related, because these activities are co-sponsored and supported by multiple partnerships with other organizations and community participants. A community is vigorous when various community entities combine their strengths. And this is happening in a superb way right now.
The Smithsonian Exhibit, "The Way We Worked," is in full swing at the Marlinton Municipal Building. The traveling exhibit is fabulous, coupled with an equally fabulous local exhibit of the Pocahontas County logging era. Generous local folks have stepped up to act as hosts for visitors. Companion exhibits are in other libraries around Pocahontas County.
And there is more.
Well-attended lectures have been held on the logging era, on our local Civil War history, and about Poet-Laureate Louise McNeill, along with music concerts such as the Dillers and the Bing Brothers.
Next Saturday, October 8, the Battle of Bartow will be remembered with re-enactments and tours at Jessie Powell's Travelers' Repose.
Goldenseal Magazine features an eight-page photo essay on the Howes Leather Tannery at Frank. Laurie Cameron, now living in Hillsboro, photographed work at the tannery in 1972.
Exhibits of some of Cameron's enlarged photos are held at the Smithsonian exhibit, McClintic Library, and Durbin Library. Goldenseal issues are also available at these places through the generosity of Cameron.
Free kids' books in the mail every month?
Yes, with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, any child younger than five can sign up to receive a free book in the mail every month. The program's launch is this Saturday at McClintic Library between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The event is for the entire family, with face painting, magic shows, games, lots of prizes and sign-ups for the books. The WV Legislature enlarged its appropriation of funds this year to include Pocahontas County. Children who enjoy books at a young age are far more likely to do well when they enter school. So please get the word out to get the youngsters signed up for a monthly free book.
What do you think of when someone mentions the Civil War?
I tend to think of battles: Bull Run, Shiloh, Gettysburg. Or I think of people: President Abraham Lincoln, General Sherman, General Robert E. Lee. But the war lasted for four long years, and there are many stories of battles, events and people that have not been told or have been forgotten. That's one of the reasons I highly recommend the book "Rebels at the Gate: Lee and McClellan on the Front Line of a Nation Divided," by W. Hunter Lesser.
Lesser takes us back to the very beginning, after the opening shots on Fort Sumter, to the first battles of the War Between the States which were fought in Virginia. The book opens with a wonderful quote from Ambrose Bierce:
"I see that region as a veritable realm of enchantment; the Alleghenies as the Delectable Mountains. I note again their dim, blue billows, ridge after ridge interminable, beyond purple valleys full of sleep, ﾑin which it seemed always afternoon.' Miles and miles away, where the lift of earth meets the stoop of sky, I discern an imperfection in the tint, a faint graying of the blue above the main range-the smoke of an enemy's camp."
It could be argued that it all began here, in our very own backyard-in our Alleghenies. Lesser says, "Virginia was a key battleground in 1861. Union forces wrested nearly one-third of her landmass from the Confederacy-along with control of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a vital Northern link. The result was all-important...the first campaign profoundly shaped America's Civil War."
"Rebels at the Gate" tells the stories of those first, pivotal battles. It tells us of the people involved, some great and some just everyday folks. Lesser is not only an accomplished historian, but as an archaeologist, he sees and interprets history with an eye to the people involved. This book isn't a recitation of cold, dreary facts; instead it's the story of our state's birth amid one of the saddest chapters in our nation's history. And Lesser knows how to tell a good story. I was drawn into this book and absorbed in the story until the very end.
If you haven't read this yet, you should find a copy.
Your local library has one.
I grew up reading magazines. Lots of ﾑem. My dad and mom, struggling financially to put bread and milk on the table for their seven kids, might at any given time have two or three subscriptions, such as The Reader's Digest and our local newspaper. Our Midwestern town library, on the other hand, had a numerous variety of magazine subscriptions.
Back in those days (1960s), bicycles were the mode of transportation for children. Schools had large-capacity bicycle parking racks that filled up every morning. Even during the year I lived in the country, I rode a bicycle to school. I rode a bicycle to school, to church, to stores, to the lake to go fishing and to the library. Thus, libraries, magazines and bicycles all glom together in my memory. Although I checked out books to read at home, I remember most fondly sprawled on a chair reading magazines.
I probably shuffled through most of the magazines in stock. Favorites included the great news magazines of that time such as Life, Saturday Evening Post, Look. I always leisurely paged through National Geographic. Like many boys, I was avid about sports and fishing. Field & Stream, Sports Afield, Outdoor Life and Sports Illustrated always got my reading attention.Occasionally a cover headline would draw me into Redbook or Family Circle and its more female-oriented materials. I would leaf through True magazine, oriented to men.
I bring this up to make the point that a lot of learning comes from random exploration. Magazines offer a multitude of short articles and blurbs on a wide range of topics within their general theme. Even magazine advertisements portray our culture. Thumbing through a magazine takes one on a journey of discovery. One stumbles upon information that otherwise would remain undiscovered.
Today's digitized, Internet-connected world has changed how we access much of our information. Online magazine and newspaper subscriptions are readily available. Information blogs proliferate. Keyword searches enable researchers to filter through huge volumes of material to find the nuggets of information they seek.
For example, Pocahontas Libraries receives via the state library commission a number of powerful databases. I encourage everyone interested in information to become familiar with the website, www.WVInfoDepot.org/ The powerful EBSCO database by itself has hundreds of searchable, full-length magazines and journals with back issues going back a decade or more
My habit of being an "Information Junky" probably started during my school days at my local library magazine rack. The Urban Dictionary, by the way, has this definition of an "Information Junky." "Someone who so frequently occupies themselves with receiving or sending information or communication that it resembles an addiction. Usually a computer, and often the internet are used."
Each of the branches of Pocahontas Libraries carries a number of magazine and newspaper subscriptions (periodicals, in library parlance). Some of these periodicals are donated by library friends, some are personal copies consistently and timely dropped off, while others we purchase. We try to have magazines for a variety of age and interest groups.
Some folks come to the library specifically to peruse the periodicals, while others leaf through them while waiting for a meeting to start or for a friend to come by. Whatever the reason, browsing magazines is an adventure that opens up wide doors of discovery and knowledge and entertainment.
Freedom of expression is the principal bulwark of American democracy. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
This amendment, the first article of the Bill of Rights, is also highly contentious. In the recently ended U.S. Supreme Court term, "The First Amendment dominated the term, with the court ruling for funeral protesters, the makers of violent video games, drug marketers and politicians who decline public financing. The American commitment to free expression, the court said, cuts across politics and commerce, requires tolerance of offensive speech and forbids the government from stepping in when powerful voices threaten to dominate public debate" (NY Times, June 28, 2011).
Public libraries typically commit to the "Freedom To Read" standard enacted by the American Library Association. The first article reads, "It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular or considered dangerous by the majority."
Another article states that libraries do not need to endorse a viewpoint or expressive style in the materials they offer. In other words, the books, videos and other materials of Pocahontas Libraries do not necessarily express the views or tastes of our library board members or staff.
On the other hand, as one might expect, we librarians do have our own personal tastes, and must restrain ourselves from overtly skewing the book collection and library use patterns. What helps guide us in collection development is that we learn the preferences of our readers. Professional librarians utilize standards in developing balanced collections, and make use of literary reviews to support high quality within a genre.
Obscenity is subjective to the attitudes of a population. The federal government requires publicly funded library Internet computers to be filtered from graphic pornography. These filters prevent minor children from access to pornography as well as defend people walking by our public computers. Prior to the law, we experienced sporadic problems.
Children have access to the full scope of library services. The responsibility of what children read or access on a computer belongs to parents, not librarians. Libraries do have children and young adult sections that concentrate reading and interest levels for those age groups. Nonetheless, many adults enjoy reading children's books, and some children with special interests find adult level books useful. For example, last spring, some of our elementary school boys began reading hunting books found in the adult section. The higher reading level probably stretched them, but then again, highly motivated readers push through difficult reading.
Freedom of expression is messy because people and our societies are messy. It's the good, the bad and the ugly. Whether "the good" triumphs above "the bad" is when civility, persuasion, and positive benefits can win the day. Government suppression of speech, assembly, petition, or political, religious, and cultural expression may always be a tempting shortcut, one that leads to oppression and stagnation.