Rural Librarian

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Future of Wifi - E-Rate Expansion, White Spaces, and Public Places

If you are a rural librarian, you know that access to broadband Internet is a problem in mountainous, remote Appalachian communities. In the Dry Fork Valley region of Randolph County, WV, there is only one Internet provider creating a monopoly for this service. Additionally, the Internet infrastructure that exists is old and sometimes unreliable. While we have an Internet wifi at the Pioneer Library, patrons must obtain a randomly generated username and password from a librarian during business hours. After business hours, many patrons do not have access to the Internet. If you are a city dweller, can you imagine not being able to afford Internet? Can you imagine not being plugged into the wifi grid for more than 24 hours? Our mountainous terrain makes it difficult even for cellular phone connections in West Virginia. But there is good news on the horizon for technology in rural libraries, tribal libraries, and public schools in the USA.

Thank You Senator Rockefeller

West Virginia's own Senator Rockefeller, who retired last year, achieved many wonderful things for the Mountain State. One of them is the E-Rate federal program that reimburses libraries and schools for telephone, long distance, and Internet. This is a national program that enables small, under-served, and rural libraries and schools to have the very best technology connection to the rest of the world. As a last farewell to his adopted home state, Rockefeller pushed through a multi-billion dollar E-Rate expansion that will hopefully allow every library and public school in the USA to have a super-fast fiber Internet connection. Thank you, Senator Jay Rockefeller for your service to West Virginia and to the rest of the country. Want to read more about it? Check out this article from New America that explains the fine print.

TV Goes Digital Leaves Spaces

Remember when televisions "went digital?" TV owners had to either upgrade to a new television or buy a digital-conversion box. This shift of television to digital freed up a large range of bandwidth that exists with the current infrastructure, the hardware of the super information highway. A fellow techie mentioned a conspiracy theory that cable companies would not allow these freed-up frequencies/channels/bandwidths to be used to offer free Internet because it would bankrupt Internet providers. OK. That was the rumor I heard that sparked this little rabbit hole of research into a nook of technology that I knew almost nothing about. Still interested? It's about to get more interesting, or, at least, I think so. The freed up bandwidth is known as White Spaces.

Conspiracy Theory?

So, did Internet providers conspire to keep free wifi from the people? The short answer is, no. White spaces, as they currently exist have no antennae or towers to broadcast their signal. There is no public infrastructure for global wifi that exists...yet. Making this even more difficult is that current computers would have to be equipped with hardware and software that communicates with the signal put out by white spaces wifi.

White Spaces at WVU

Another aspect of white spaces that is of interest: the first pilot campus-wide use of white spaces is happening at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Here is a great quote from WVU’s chief information officer John Campbell, "Broadband in this state is a huge challenge. We’re very rural and very mountainous. Between the terrain and the weather, it’s hard on infrastructure.” So, even in West Virginia's larger cities, reliable and fast Internet is a problem. About a year ago, WVU started using white spaces as an infrastructure for a campus-wide wifi that unites three campus via this old spectrum that used to be occupied by television. (Here is a great article about White Spaces at WVU from Network World. It's also where I pulled the quote from the WVU PR rep.)

How Do White Spaces Work?

White spaces. Old tv frequencies. New Uses. Potential for super wifi? OK, here's the part I'm fuzzy on. I am an information scientist but not a computer scientist. If you want the library technology geek details, I recommend this article from Information Age by Kane Fulton way back in March 2013.

Who owns the white spaces? Technically, they are still owned by the television networks who ruled them. The Federal Communications Committee has ultimate power of these white spaces and may force cable companies to auction them off when the time comes. Think of this as auctioning off swamp land that needs to be drained before it can be developed. According to a tech source whom will remain anonymous, white spaces are generating a lot more attention from Internet Service Providers than the FCC had predicted. The auctioning off of white spaces will be a multi-billion dollar affair no doubt ruled by AT&T, Cellular One, and Sprint, the usual ISP and cell phone suspects. So what will the FCC do with the billions that stand to make in auctioning off white spaces? Only time will tell. But wouldn't it be great if the Federal communications Commission could invest it in future E-Rate programs so that underserved and rural libraries and schools will be ensured free technology for years to come? It is most certainly what Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia would have wanted.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't Steal Software - The Case For Purchasing Legitimate Software in Libraries

Maybe you're reading the title of this blog entry and saying, "Libraries would never steal software!" And while that should never happen in the 21st century it still does. I have seen single copies of software passed out like candy with the reminder, "Don't try to register it." As librarians and technology guides we need to practice what we preach to our patrons, colleagues, and board members. We use software everyday that make our job easier and possible and we need legitimate and legally purchased software in our libraries and media centers.

Stay Legal - Purchase Software

So what is the number one reason to purchasing software? It keeps you legal. If you or your library is caught distributing illegal software or illegal copies of software you could face large fines, jail time, and loss of reputation in the community. If you are a public library that receives funding from your state through a library commission you could lose your funding. How would you feel if your library was on the front page of your local paper for software theft? That is a loss that no library needs.


I use software such as Microsoft Office, QuickBooks, and Adobe Photoshop on a regular basis in the Pioneer Library. While these software can be expensive for private companies and individuals, TechSoup makes it easy and inexpensive for nonprofit organizations to legally purchase software. It takes a little time to submit paperwork and supporting documentation of nonprofit status, but schools, libraries, and nonprofits all qualify for software donations from the manufacturers. TechSoup makes it easy to keep your library legal.

So Easy To Pirate

While it may seem easy to just pass a CD or DVD around with software, each copy needs to be registered with the manufacturer. Why? For one thing, imagine the following scenario: You are working on your library's financial records using QuickBooks. Something happens, a glitch, a bomb, the blue screen of death, a software malfunction. Maybe your computer is permanently damaged. Maybe your software has malfunctioned. What do you do? Who can you call? If you call the software manufacturer for help, they will report you for theft. You have no software support, no one to help you with your software conundrum. When you purchase legitimate software you have backup and support from the software company who wants you to have a good experience with their product. If your illegal software malfunctions you could lose invaluable data or records from your library, media center, or nonprofit.

Software Developers Deserve Their Dime

And think about it this way. Software developers spend millions to develop software that is user-friendly, reliable, and time-saving. If Microsoft Office or QuickBooks makes your professional and personal life easier, it is worth paying for. How would you feel if you wrote a book and instead of buying it someone photocopied it and read it without paying for it? You would be mad, right? It's not fair, right? Same deal with software. The federal government takes software theft very seriously as it can hurt competition and profit in the software industry.

So, the next time you feel tempted to copy software that you have not legitimately acquired and paid for, don't do it. Take time to contact TechSoup and purchase legitimate copies of software. How cheap is TechSoup? QuickBooks retails for approximately $229.95. On TechSoup the price is $30-39. If you want to purchase Photoshop Elements for your library it retails for $299. The TechSoup price for PS Elements is $22. As librarians and media professionals, we can afford to buy software legally and legitimately. We can't afford to be arrested or fined for software theft. If you represent a nonprofit that wants to register with TechSoup and need a little help, stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia, and I would be glad to get you started. Additionally, if you want to report software theft you can do so here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tory or Patriot? Who Was Uriah Gandy?

Perhaps one of the most unusual places in Randolph County, West Virginia is the Sinks of Gandy. Located on private property, this partially underwater cave is a favorite spot for hikers and cavers. The Sinks are named for Uriah Gandy or Gandee, an early settler of the Dry Fork region whose origins are a bit muddied by the passage of time and the decay of memory. So, who was Uriah Gandy? Read on…

Historians Remember Gandy

Gandy is listed in Hu Maxwell’s “History of Randolph County” (1898) as a former Sherriff of Randolph County who served from 1793-1796. Another source, Don Teter’s “Goin’ Up Gandy” (1977) says, “One of the early leaders of the Tory bands may have been Uriah Gandy, who settled in about 1781 near the junction of the Dry Fork with the creek which now bears his name. Apparently he abandoned his loyalty to royalty; when Randolph County was organized in 1787 he was appointed a justice of the peace, and in 1793 he became sheriff.” Working in Harman, West Virginia, there are historic signs posted that say this region was originally settled by Tories, those who supported England during the Revolutionary War. So, who was Uriah Gandy and was he a Tory?

Gandy Genealogy

According to an article in Wonderful West Virginia Magazine in December 1992, written by Lee R. Gandee, “Samuel Gandy and Uriah Gandy, Sr. were brothers, sons of George Gaither, Gendee, or Gandy, who came to Philadelphia in 1732 with his father, Hans Jacob, from Germany. He settled near Philadelphia. Samuel and Uriah joined the Patriot Army, but Samuel deserted at Valley Forge and returned home to his widowed mother and his family. He was arrested and about to be hanged as a deserter.” Allegedly, a pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787) wrote to General George Washington asking for clemency for Samuel Gandy, and indeed there is such a person who worked as an esteemed Lutheran minister outside Philadelphia in Trappe, Pennsylvania.

Revolutionary War Soldier?

Also according to Lee R. Gandee, “Uriah did serve in the Revolutionary War from May 1, 1776 until January 20, 1777, and again enlisted around April 12, 1777 and served until December 1777. I have found no records to indicate where he was living after December 1777 until 1784, when he was living in Rockingham County, Virginia. By then, he had probably married Susanna ___, and Uriah Jr. must have been born there September 2, 1782.”

Incomplete Revolutionary War Records

I can find no record of Samuel nor Uriah Gandy in the United States Revolutionary War Rolls (1775-1783). That does not mean that Uriah Gandy was not indeed an enlisted man in the Revolutionary War. In a book written by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg Richards entitled “The Pennsylvania-German in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783)”, v. 17, he writes, “…we are confronted with very incomplete and exceedingly meager company and regimental records as regards most of the Pennsylvania Continentals. The writer, after no little research, no slight advantages, and no ignorance, at least, of the subject, has been unable to find anywhere such data as would enable him to furnish the full account of the Pennsylvania-Germans, who formed the component parts of the several Pennsylvania Continental regiments, which he would like to give here.” My translation: Even for intelligent researchers, the records of the Revolutionary War are woefully incomplete. It seems unusual and highly unlikely that Uriah Gandy’s enlistment dates would be so specific if they were not real, and sadly I cannot find a source for Lee Gandee’s article.

Revolutionary War Pension

In digging further into the life and military service of Uriah Gandy I found his Revolutionary War pension application that was filed on November 18, 1833 in Jackson County, Virginia. So, at the alleged age of 80 and six months, Gandy applied for a pension for his service in the Revolutionary War. Gandy names the Generals under whom he served (Washington, Greene, Weedon, LaFayette, Wayne, Proctor, and Marshall) and says that his war service took him to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. He also claims, “I fought at Princeton & Trenton & Brandywine & Germantown. I do not recollect the No. of any Regt. Whatever & these are the General Circumstances of my Service.” Apparently, Uriah Gandee is unable to read or write and he makes a ‘G’ mark to swear his statement. There are others who vouch for the statement made by Uriah including John M. Kown and Phillips Hall, both of Jackson County, Virginia. Then, the local Justice of the Peace, George Stone, vouches for Kown, Hall, and Gandy. Then, the county clerk of Jackson County, Benjamin Wright, signs to vouch for the signature of Stone on March 17, 1834. [Side note: John M. Kown as also known as John McKown.]

After all this signing and swearing, a man named Elias Parsons, also of Jackson County, adds to the pension application, “…on the night of 25th Dec. Gandy staid at his home on his way to Ohio. That Gandy was talking about his Application for a Pension and in answer to an enquiry made by Parsons as to how long he had served as a soldier in the War of Revolution Gandy replied, “Something like Six months.” Parsons further stated that not one man who knew Gandy believed he ever served one hour as a soldier in the war of the Revolution. He is too young.”

Pension or no Pension? Reports of Uriah Gandy

Another statement reads, “Danl. G. Monell [Morrell?], Clerk of Jackson Supreme Court states on same day that Gandy applied to him to write to the Secretary of War about his pending claim for a Pension and that he did in compliance with Gandy’s request write- at the time questioning Gandy detail his services to him. From that statement he did not think him entitled. He claimed to have been engaged against the Indians for some Seven or eight months. On reference to Gandy declaration it will be seen that he locates his service in Pennsylvania & New Jersey…this declaration was made in the county before a magistrate. He is a harty man. Can walk 40 miles a day, as I am told. There can be no doubt of this claim being fraudulent. Gandy has made a new declaration from Ohio. So I am informed.” This statement is signed by a W. G. Singleton on Jany 2, 1834. [Please note that all misspellings reflect those on the document.]

Pension Denied

There is also a statement from J. J. Arnold who says, “He is very old and lives with his son since his application for a pension.” However, any and all supporting statements regarding Uriah Gandy are ultimately rejected by the US government who believes Gandy to be too young to have served. But with so many people vouching for Gandy, why was his Revolutionary War pension request denied? There was an interesting note at the bottom of the transcription added by Will Graves that says that Uriah Gandy’s “claim fits in with the meticulous research of C. Leon Harris as noted on the Revolutionary War pension application of David W. Sleeth” who was similarly rejected by attorney W. G. Singleton. In examining the lengthy claim document made by David W. Sleeth there are some unsavory details that come to light about attorney W. G. Singleton and an entity known as the “Lewis Speculating Gentry.” There were unscrupulous people and lawyers who traveled the country and enlisted older citizens to apply for and receive Revolutionary War pensions in exchange for a percentage. W. G. Singleton dubbed them the Lewis Speculating Gentry as they were headquartered in Lewis County, and they were also known as “Jonathan Wamsley’s Boys”. Think about it. In a world where there were no Social Security numbers, no electronic databases, not even photo ID, it might be easy (or difficult) to prove or disprove a pensioner applicant’s service. Enterprising lawyers need only gather a few people, fill out some paperwork and receive a percentage of a “war veteran’s” pension until their death.

Overzealous Lawyer

So, in Singleton’s favor, he did a great job of researching and finding fraud but he may have become a little too zealous with his initial success. Quoting from the research of C. Leon Harris, “Several of the pensioners’ attorneys alleged that Singleton acted “from corrupt motives” and “from no consideration but the fees the Govt. paid him” - $20 per rejected pension according to Congressman Zedekiah Kidwell.” In short, many complained about Singleton, but few had the money or resources to challenge his decision. Uriah Gandy may have had his pension rejected due to his proximity to the Lewis County Speculating Gentry. My conclusion in examining the life of Uriah Gandy is that he was not a Tory. I believe Gandy to be an honest many who was denied his Revolutionary War pension on unfounded reasons. So, when Don Teter mentions that Gandy went from “royal to loyal”, I believe Gandy was a loyal patriot and American who was left short-shrift in his golden years by an overzealous United States lawyer.

Do you love West Virginia history too? Stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia, and we would be happy to help you research history and genealogy.

Note: A special thank you to West Virginia historian David Armstrong for showing me where to find Uriah Gandy's Revolutionary War pension application online. This article is lovingly dedicated to all those denied justice at the hands of those who are supposed to mete it out.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dewey Lee Fleming: From Whitmer To Washington

West Virginia has been the birthplace of many famous people including Chuck Yeager, Don Knotts, Kathy Matea, and Bill Withers. But most have probably never heard of a gentleman born in Whitmer, WV, who is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Who Is Dewey Lee Fleming?

Dewey Lee Fleming (1898-1955) was born in Whitmer to parents Sidney Albert Fleming and Hattie Alice Bowers. Fleming grew up in Sutton, WV, where his parents owned a general store, and he goes on to attend Davis and Elkins College, graduating in 1918 with a B.A. degree. While at D&E, Fleming worked at the local daily newspaper, The Intermountain. According to Fleming’s obituary in the New York Times, he gave his $500 Pulitzer Prize money to D&E, where he also served as a trustee. In 1944, D&E awarded Fleming an honorary “Doctor of Laws” degree.

Newspaperman Fleming

After a summer at Columbia University in New York City, Fleming took a job for one year at the Baltimore News-American newspaper, and later worked at the Baltimore Sun newspaper. Fleming went on to be Bureau Chief of New York City, Chicago, and London, before achieving the goal as Bureau Chief of Washington DC for the Sun. Fleming’s job took him all over the world and he worked at the Baltimore Sun for almost 20 years. Dewey Fleming covered such cases as the Hall-Mills Murder Trial, 1926 and the Valentine’s Day Massacre, 1929.

Fleming Marries Walker

In 1932, Fleming married Elizabeth Walker of Buckhannon, a graduate of Ohio University. Here is a charming tidbit from the Ohio Alumnus from November 1931:

“Maybe this is confidential but it is just too good to keep. Anyway, here goes. Elizabeth Walker, '23, of Clarksburg, W.Va., is engaged to Dewey Lee Fleming, of Washington, D. C. Now, isn't that a real break for Mr. Fleming? Betty is an art supervisor in the Clarksburg schools. Her fiance, a graduate of Davis-Elkins College and Columbia University, is a staff correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. He has recently returned from two years in London.” Their marital union was short-lived as Ms. Fleming died in 1938.

Fleming Wins Pulitzer Prize

It is as a reporter and journalist that Fleming received his highest honor, for reporting as Washington Bureau Chief for the Baltimore Sun in August, 1943. Dewey Lee Fleming was one of nine newspaper reporters invited to travel in secrecy with President Roosevelt to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the first Quebec Conference. It was here that these two great leaders hashed out the finer points of World War II including the invasion of France, and stepping up bombing attacks on Germany. Roosevelt and Churchill also talked about the need for developing atomic weapons. Some might consider the Quebec Conference one of the most important meetings of the 20th century, and Dewey Lee Fleming, born in Whitmer, West Virginia, was there. In 1944, Fleming won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting in the previous year.

West Virginia Journalist

Fleming died in May of 1955 at the age of 56. I do not know what he died of but the obituary published in the Baltimore Sun says that he died in Johns Hopkins Hospital where he had been since the previous September. Sadly, whatever killed Fleming took about 9 months. How important was Dewey Lee Fleming? At the news of his death, the press secretary for then President Eisenhower commented, “On behalf of the President I want publically to express his deep regret on the passing of Dewey Fleming of the Baltimore Sun.” His colleagues at the Baltimore Sun wrote the most touching tribute of all on May 19, 1955 that read in part:

“Other columns in The Sun today deal with his long and distinguished service as chief to this newspaper’s Washington bureau; with his profound knowledge of national and international affairs; with his honors; with the esteem in which his Washington colleagues held him. We think, rather, of his strength of character and the dedication to an ideal that made this small, quiet, modest, warmhearted man, as fine and as uncompromising a reporter as we have ever been privileged to know.” Now that is a great tribute.

So maybe Dewey Lee Fleming is not as famous as Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill, but this mild-mannered man from West Virginia became a respected journalist who knew Presidents and Prime Ministers. Fleming was clearly an intelligent, inspiring, and meticulous journalist working in the Golden Age of newspaper and investigative reporting. This was a time when facts were checked, attitudes were checked, and a good journalist reported the facts and events in a balanced and nonjudgmental way. While not a huge name in West Virginia history, Dewey Lee Fleming is a gentleman worth remembering.

Do you enjoy West Virginia history too? Come check out the West Virginia collection of fiction and nonfiction available at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia.

Some sources:

"Dewey L. Fleming, Newsman, Was 56." New York Times [New York City] 19 May 1955: 29. Print.

Clarage, Elizabeth C. "Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners." Google Books. Ed. Elizabeth Brennan. Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners, n.d. Web. 29 Sept. 2014. .

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Harman School Update - Construction and Money

Harman School has been closed since a ceiling collapsed during the first week of July 2014. Construction is needed before the school is safe for the students to return. But where is the construction? How much money has been raised by the community? And when will the students return to Harman School? What follows is an update from several reliable sources who will remain unnamed.

Fund Raising - Grand Total

So far, approximately $221,461 has been raised by the people of Harman to pay for the school repairs. (That is amazing and awesome!) When the first phase of the repairs are complete, it is expected that there will be about $95,000 left over for other phases of repair and remediation. Lombardi Construction of Morgantown is the company that won the bid and they are allegedly ahead of schedule. Lombardi was given 45 days to complete the construction with daily penalties for every day they are late. It is estimated that the pre-K-5th grade students will be back at Harman School by early November.

Unanswered Questions

But what about the rest of the kids? Will Harman remain a K-12 school? What about the furnace? What about the future of Harman School? Apparently, there are several unanswered questions that include:

* Why is Harman School still on the Randolph County Board of Education Closure List?
* Is Harman School still scheduled to be closed by the Randolph County BOE?
* Was mold found in Harman School? Was it properly removed?
* Are air sample readings available for parents who may be concerned?
* Has the BOE applied for a grant or loan from the School Building Association as they had promised?
* Where is that grant and what is the progress?

There is an important Board of Education meeting this coming Tuesday, October 7th at 5pm at the Board Office in Elkins, West Virginia. The President of the Harman School Parent Teacher Student Organization, Karen Huffman, will be speaking to the Board and addressing these unresolved questions. It would be great if concerned citizens of the Harman and Dry Fork region turned up at the meeting next week to show support. In the meantime, if you would like to donate to Harman School, you may send checks to:

308 Robert E. Lee Ave.
Elkins, WV 26241

Please note that you have to indicate "Harman Building Fund" on the envelope and on the memo section of the check.

And don't forget, the Pioneer Library is still open, Monday & Wednesday 10am-4pm, Tues & Thurs. 10am-6pm, Saturday 10am-2pm. CLOSED Friday & Sunday.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Better World Books - How To Recycle Books and Make Money

As a librarian, sometimes I find myself drowning in a sea of books. Mostly these are books that have been donated that we choose not to add to the library collection, and books that have been weeded due to age, wear, or lack of use. As a small library we regularly house about 10,000 items and we can’t keep every book forever and ever. At the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia, we do maintain a small book sale and we probably make about $8-10 per month selling these books. We also sell books on Amazon with all proceeds benefiting the library.

In the past two years, we have weeded about 3,000+ books from the shelves of the library. Excessively worn books go into a dumpster and are disposed of in the local landfill. Because of our rural location in West Virginia, there is no place within a 50+ mile radius to recycle books. Other books have been lovingly packed in boxes and shipped off to Better World Books in Indiana. In the last two years, I have personally boxed up 78 boxes of books that have been shipped off to BWB. Better World Books pays for the boxes and the shipping, making it even easier to expedite this reciprocal relationship. Assuming that each box holds about 20 books, I estimate that I have recycled well over 1,500 books in the last two years through BWB.

So what is Better World Books?

Better World Books was founded in 2002 by three friends at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The goal of BWB according to their website: “Better World Books uses the power of business to change the world. We collect and sell books online to donate books and fund literacy initiatives worldwide. With more than 8 million new and used titles in stock, we’re a self-sustaining, triple-bottom-line company that creates social, economic and environmental value for all our stakeholders.” Sounds great, right? In short, Better World Books promotes literacy, creative book recycling, and environmental responsibility. I wrote a brief article about Better World Books a while back but I wanted to write an update on the success of our partnership with BWB.

Better World Books accepts donated books and resells them on 50 different outlets online. I have even bought books for my library from Better World Books (via Amazon) and I love that my library's relationship with BWB completes a full circle. If you are interested in buying books from BWB, you can check out their site here.

Where Does the Book Money Go?

One of the great aspects of BWB is transparency. Via an online portal, I may see how many boxes of books BWB has accepted for the Pioneer Library and I can see how much income has been made via online sales. So far, Better World Books has sold $458.77 worth of discarded books from the Pioneer Library. We only make 15% of sales, so our cut is $58.28. Five percent of the sale go to our Net Proceeds Literacy Partner (NPLP) so they have earned $19.43. Our NPLP is Worldfund, a nonprofit that promotes literacy in South America, and I got to choose this nonprofit from several choices. I chose Worldfund because South America is our neighbor and also in acknowledgement of the fact that Latinos are the fastest-growing minority population in West Virginia.

Environmental Benefits From Better World Books

OK, so the Pioneer Library has not made a ton of cash from selling books via Better World Books, but there are other benefits besides cash. The same portal where I may view sales shows the environmental impact of our book donations. Since I only recently sent another batch of 26 boxes of books, BWB has not caught up with the full total of items that have been sent. But, according to the portal, of the 749 books they have received, 439 have been recycled and 310 have been reused. This adds up to 1,024 pounds of books! Also according to the BWB calculation I have saved the equivalent of 11 trees, 6,595 gallons of water, 1,594 pounds of greenhouse gases, and 2,463 kwh of electricity. This makes me feel even better about sending books to Better World Books.

But wait, there's more. As of May 2014, Better World Books has raised $16 million for literacy worldwide! Not bad for an organization that began with three friends who just wanted to recycle books and promote literacy. Please keep in mind that half of that amount has been reinvested into literacy programs and libraries in the United States. So while you can buy and sell from BWB as a library, they also give back to libraries in donations and grants. You can't say the same thing about Amazon.

Is BWB Worth the Effort?

Overall, Better World Books is serving our library and the world amazingly and creatively. I am thrilled to keep hundreds of books out of our local landfills. I am pleased that BWB offers carbon offsets to individual book buyers for just a few cents extra. BWB has a holistic approach to literacy, recycling, and philanthropy that seems to cover all the bases. What has it cost the library? It does take staff time and tape to pack up 26 boxes of books (per shipment). BWB provides free boxes, labels and shipping. I have to place UPS labels on all the boxes and call UPS for pick up, but I still feel like the time I spend on preparing these books is well worth the return on investment. If a small rural library with two part-time staff members can participate successfully with Better World Books, so can you. And remember, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia accepts books for donation.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Who Were Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper?

Wilma Lee Cooper and Stoney Cooper are two of the most famous folks from Randolph County, West Virginia. They were a married couple who made their fame as American country musicians who performed on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Really? Really. Read on…

Wilma Lee Leary

Wilma Lee Leary was born to Jacob and Lola Leary on February 7, 1921. While Jacob and Lola list their professions as farmer and teacher, respectively, they were also very musical. The United States Census of 1930 records her name was “Willma Leigh Leary”. Somewhere along the line, either Wilma simplified her name or the census taker got it wrong. While other sources say Leary was born in Valley Head, WV, the 1930 census finds the Leary Family in the Leadsville district, closer to Elkins, WV. I found Wilma in the 1937 Elkins High School yearbook, where she graduated. (see picture below. Wilma is listed as wistful, ladylike, lovable.)

Wilma Lee played music in her family’s band, The Leary Family Singers, which is said to have been country, bluegrass, and gospel. The Leary Family Singers were hand-picked by Eleanor Roosevelt to represent West Virginia traditional music at a folk festival in Washington D.C. in 1938. It allegedly was at this same time that the Leary Family Singers recorded some of their music for the Library of Congress. (I can't find a record of this in the Library of Congress but I am looking. *See UPDATE below* Wilma played guitar and sang. Dale T. “Stoney” Cooper joined the band as fiddler and singer, and soon after, Stoney and Wilma were married sometime in 1939 or 1941. (I am unable to find a record of their marriage on Ancestry.)

Dale T. "Stoney" Cooper

Dale Troy Cooper was born in 1918 in Harman, West Virginia, son of Stellie M. and Kennie Cooper. The 1920 US Census finds his family in the Allegheny Mountains of the Dry Fork District. (Now, because there are so many Coopers in this region, please allow me to add that in the 1920 Census, Stoney’s siblings are listed as Hisel, Roosevelt, George, Herman, Madeline, and Dean.) I can find no record of Stoney attending or graduating high school, but back then, if your family didn’t live near a school (Harman School did not yet exist) the student or family had to move to be able to go to school past eighth grade.

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper

After Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were married they went on to become one of country music’s biggest acts. Stoney and Wilma Lee were cast as members of the WWVA Jamboree (Wheeling West Virginia) in 1947 and their band was known as the Clinch Mountain Clan. Some years later, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper joined the prestigious Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. (According to an email from the Grand Ole Opry in Tennessee, Stoney joined the GOO in 1954 and Wilma Lee joined in 1957. It seems odd that they would have joined separately, but there you have it.) How important was the Grand Ole Opry? Membership in the Grand Ole Opry is considered the pinnacle of country music and other prominent members include Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, the Carter Family, Ernest Tubb, Bill Monroe, Kitty Wells, and Minnie Pearl. Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper are part of this grand pantheon of classic country music.

Stars of Country Music

While Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper may not be current household names, they certainly enjoyed some fame back in the day. Perhaps their greatest country music hit was a version of “There’s a Big Wheel” written by Don Gibson which made Number 3 on the country charts in 1959. Wilma Lee and Stoney also scored with a version of Leadbelly’s “Big Midnight Special” during that same year. While Stoney Cooper died in 1977, Wilma Lee stayed on at the Grand Ole Opry and lived to the ripe old age of 90. According to her obituary in the New York Times, she was one of the favorite singers of Hank Williams and her voice is compared to that of the great Roy Acuff.

As proof of their continued popularity and longevity, you can still buy Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper albums here. You might also listen to this great version of “Walking My Lord Up Calvary’s Hill” here. Wilma Lee's voice makes me think that Hazel Dickens listened to Wilma Lee. There is a similarity in the amazing volume that the tiny Wilma Lee pushes out. And check out her guitar playing! She has some hot licks and a full half-guitar pick guard on her instrument. Wilma Lee has the high lonesome mountain sound in spades, and her gospel origins come through loud and clear.

I am also including some great photographs courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Collection below. If you click on any of these photos they get larger and reveal more detail. Also: I cannot find out why Dale T. Cooper was known as "Stoney". If anyone knows, please let me know!

UPDATE: 9/8/2014 - Local resident and genealogist Ted Harman asked around regarding Stoney's nickname and here is what he told me he heard from some of Stoney's relatives who still live in the Dry Fork region high in the Allegheny Mountains of Randolph County: People who saw Stoney perform called him "Smiley" because of the happy smile he wore while onstage. Allegedly, Dale Cooper did not like this nickname and so they called him "Stoney" instead. Perhaps Dale thought this made him sound more manly.

UPDATE: 9/9/2014 - I wrote to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and received this reply: If you'll go to our online card catalog and enter "leary" in the search box, you'll get seven hits, three of which are by members of the Leary family -- "Crawdad song," "Jericho road," and "Old black mountain trail."

These would appear to be the Leary family, but they were recorded at Tygart Valley Homesteads in Elkins in 1939, not in D.C.

We also have recordings from the 1938 National Folk Festival. The overall description of the collection is this: "One 12-inch and 39 16-inch discs of instrumentals, songs, dance music, and folk dancing (Morris dance, sword dance, square dance, and social dances) performed by Scottish, American Indian, Spanish American, Anglo-American, African American, and Pennsylvania Dutch performers. Includes folk songs, ballads, fiddle tunes, coal miner's songs and music from Pennsylvania; cowboy songs; sea songs; Chinese music; Turkish music; Slavonic tamburitza music; Bach chorales; orchestral music; interviews; and lectures performed during the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C. from May 6-8, 1938. Also includes a radio air check on United States foreign policy and defense; and several other radio programs not recorded at the National Folk Festival, including a WPA-sponsored program featuring the Prince George High School orchestra. The collection includes 3/4 linear inch of song lists, newspaper articles, and programs. Sarah Gertrude Knott makes some introductions. Recorded primarily at the National Folk Festival in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Recording Company, May 6-8, 1938." I've looked through the inventory for the recordings from the 1938 festival, but find no additional references to anyone named Leary. (These recordings are also in the online card catalog series, so if there had been any Learys for the 1938 festival recordings, that should have shown up with the first search I did above. But the number of recordings we have probably does not reflect all of the performances that took place at the festival.)

So I'm afraid I cannot verify from this end some of the statements about the Leary family's performances.

Thus far, we can only put entire collections online, not individual cuts. And putting collections online requires both a copyright search on each song (to determine whether it is still under copyright protection) and a good-faith attempt to contact each performer or performer's estate in order to secure their permission to place the recording online. So right now we are not working on more of the historical collections with a view to putting them online, but are instead focused first on digital preservation.

Above information from Library of Congress provided by Judith Gray, Reference Specialist at the American Folklife Center.

Wilma Leary yearbook photo, Elkins High School 1937.