Rural Librarian

Monday, September 8, 2014

Better World Books - Two Years Later, An Update

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 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, 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 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 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 we have 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 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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Be Nice - Email Etiquette In Libraries and the Workplace

If you are like me, you work in a small rural library and you depend on other librarians and library professionals for advice, communication, and work. I receive and send probably a few dozen emails every single day. Email and the Internet is my link to the larger outside world. But sometimes, email senders (who learned to type on typewriters) forget that their words have more weight and meaning when they are sent without physical, facial, or tone inflection cues. Emails stand alone in their communication and it is important that the tone of your emails be carefully scrutinized before pressing the 'Send' button. Email etiquette is important especially if you want to be taken seriously as a human being and professional.

Please and Thank You

When you were a child one of the first things your parents taught you was how to say 'please' and 'thank you'. Every email that you send out should also include these magic words. These are social niceties that smooth the way for a successful interaction with others.

Descriptive Subject

The subject of an email is important because if someone is scanning their email inbox they may better prioritize what to read first. Also, this helps you and the recipient organize your emails. Keep the subject brief but it should also reflect the main communication point of your email.

Salutation

Many people do not bother with a 'Dear So and So' in their emails but this kind of standard greeting can go a long way in how the body of your email is received. You wouldn't just pick up the phone and start talking to someone. You would make sure you have that person's attention by addressing them properly. The salutation serves the same purpose. If this is a work colleague with whom you work on a regular basis a first name is fine. If you are addressing an unknown person in a higher position you may want to address them as Ms. or Mr. (And yeah, it's the 21st century. No one uses Miss or Mrs. anymore in my world.) I like to use a Hello or Hi as a salutation. In more formal situations you may use Dear.

The Email Body

Be brief and to the point in your email, but also proceed courteously. Ideally, you are communicating with someone for a reason. You want something. You need something. You are trying to communicate or persuade. Do so being mindful of that person's time by writing succinctly, but warmly, about the purpose of your email. If your email is longer than a few paragraphs you might want to consider a phone call. If you are writing about a touchy or controversial topic, again, you may want to make this communication a phone call not an email.

Never demand. Never use the word 'never'. Use emoticons to express warmth if you are communicating with a colleague. Never write in ALL CAPS. On the Internet, this is the equivalent of yelling.

Never send an email when you are mad. Sit on it for 24 hours before you hit the 'Send' button. And what do you do about evil emails? Emails that are condescending, accusatory, impolite, or completely off-base? Don't respond. Ever. Unless it is your boss, in which case you should look for a better boss. Good managers and supervisors know how to communicate kindly and effectively to their employees and treat them well at all times. IF you have to response to an impolite, rude, or threatening email, keep it brief and to the point. Don't take the bait and start an email war of words. You have bigger and better things to do than sort out the rude and impolite.

When finishing an email go back and read it over. Practice reading it aloud in your head. This will help you catch typos and misspellings and will also help you identify the tone of your email. Is it friendly? Is it kind? Have you said what you wanted to say? Have you asked for an appropriate response? Consider your words very carefully.

The Carbon Copy (CC) and Blind Carbon Copy (BCC)

Think carefully before you CC and/or BCC someone on an email. If you are just trying to make communication efficient by communicating the same thing to many people, that is fine. If you constantly copy someone's boss on every email, you lose trust and humanity points. This is a form of bullying and strong-arming, especially if it is done by equals or someone in a service capacity. Sometimes, this is the workplace form of tattle-tailing. Use the BCC sparingly and to make a point. Don't make a habit of it.

The Closing

I have read many different writer's opinions on the closing of a professional email. Everyone has a different style. Acceptable closings include: Sincerely, Truly Yours, Best, Thank you, and Regards.

The Signature

Use the auto format available in every email interface to create a consistent and professional signature. Include your name, business, address, phone number, web address, and any other information that you want the public to know. Some people like to include a meaningful quote after their signature which I usually like, but don't include a long quote or more than one. Too much info.

Formatting

Don't spend a lot of time making your email or signature appear as orchid pink in a fancy or script font. Most people have an email interface that will make your email hard to read and you will also appear less professional. Sometimes, less is more.

Attachments

Limit your attachments in number and size. Remember that most email servers choke on anything over 10MB and some people may have older and slower machines. Other email servers automatically tag emails with attachments as spam. Be mindful of this and don't overload an email with more than one or two small attachments.

The Reply

If you have received an email that requires a response (and is nice) respond within 24 hours. Same day response is ideal but not always possible. If you are sending an email reply late, don't be afraid to apologize.

That is my quick tutorial on effective, kind, and polite email etiquette. You don't have to use any of these ideas, but remember that people will judge you by your email tone and be less likely to answer or work with you. Practice making your emails professional yet conversational. By using social graces you will have higher productivity and more success in your professional endeavors. As librarians, media specialists, and professionals our goal is to work together to get things done. As nonprofit entities we need to collaborate, not compete or feud. Want more guidance? Here is a great article by Laura Stack written for Microsoft.

Speaking of email, if you need help setting up an email account, learning how to organize your emails, or learning how to forward or attach photos, stop by the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, WV. I would be glad to help you!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Run For It - Pioneer Library Needs Funds, Too

As fundraising for Harman School is continuing in great earnest, I wanted to remind y'all that the Pioneer Memorial Public Library needs funds too. The Run For It on Saturday, September 27 in Davis, WV, is our biggest fundraiser of the year and we need runners, walkers, and library lovers (near and far) to help us out. Here is what you can do to help.

If you are a runner or walker, sign up for the Run For It as part of Team Pioneer. Join us as part of Team Pioneer in Davis on September 27. If you place in your age category, you win cash for the library. The Run For It is a 2k walk or a 5k run, you decide which event works for you. Here is the sign-up form. We get half of every $10 registration fee returned to the Library. The larger our team, the more prizes we become eligible to receive.

Also, you don't have to be present or even in West Virginia to help us out. If you would like to help the Pioneer Memorial Public Library continue to offer excellent service to the Randolph County community please take a moment to send a check to:

TCF-RFI
PO Box 491
Parsons, WV 26287

Please make sure you indicate "Team Pioneer" in the memo section of your check. Part of the awesomeness of the Run For It is that teams also compete for most money raised. Every dollar you contribute comes back to the Pioneer Library from the Run For It event.

So what else is at the Run For It? Well, this amazing event is part of the Leaf Peepers Festival in Davis, WV. This event is held to celebrate the peak of fall foliage in the hills of West Virginia. If you drive in through Canaan Valley you will be treated to the most wonderful, colorful forest cathedral. The festival also includes craft vendors, a large book sale put on by Mountaintop Library, a beer garden, live music, and a chicken roast. (This is co-sponsored by the Pioneer Library and the Tucker County Rotary Club. Come on by and get The Best Chicken ever.)

I will also say that the Run For It event is part competition and part spectacle. Last year, there was a walking string band that played music for the entire 2k race. Some teams don elaborate costumes that bring attention to their cause or nonprofit. If you like people watching, the Run For It event cannot be beat.

Why donate to the Pioneer Memorial Public Library?

  • We are a non-profit organization that employees two part-time librarians.

  • We have over 10,000 books, audiobooks, and DVDs available for checkout.

  • We serve as both school library to Harman School and as a public library.

  • We provide a story time program for Harman School children from pre-K to 3rd grade on a weekly basis during the school year.

  • We provide a small rotating collection of books for the Harman Senior Center.

  • We have a twice-a-year job fair for Huttonsville Correctional Center.

  • We have a weekly baby & toddler story time program all year round. (Thursday, 10:30am)

  • We have free wifi and five public Internet computers.

  • Last year we checked out over 2,100 books, audiobooks, and DVDs!

  • Last year we had over 4,300 library visits!

  • We have over 138,000 items available for checkout through WV READS, our e-book consortium.

  • We help people write resumes and find jobs.

  • We help people apply for Medicare, Medicaid, and Disability.

We do a lot with a little but we still need your help! Consider making a donation to the Pioneer Memorial Public Library. Consider signing up for the Run For It as part of Team Pioneer. Our mission is to engage, empower, and educate the good people of our community. How may we help you? Stop by the Pioneer Library to write a check or go online to the Run For It site and register as part of Team Pioneer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Illegitimate Publishers -- Let the Buyer Beware

Libraries can be complex places of work. Large libraries have many departments that handle collection development from acquisition, to check-in, to accounting, to cataloging, and onto the shelf. Sometimes this means that a book is ordered by one person, checked in by someone else, cataloged by another, and shelved by someone else entirely. Another person or department in the library then pays for the book. Perhaps because of this labyrinth-like journey through a larger library it is easier for illegitimate publishers to peddle their shoddy wares.

Assessing Publishers and Writers

So what qualities make up an illegitimate publisher? Let's start with a prime example of illegitimate publisher: North American Book Distributors LLC sells, "Encyclopedia of West Virginia", by Nancy Capace, Somerset Publishers, 1999. Here is a sentence about abolitionist John Brown, "John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, self-conscripted to an act of madness or of glory, focused the thought of his time upon the problem of slavery." For a whopping $95 you can buy this poorly-written, hardbound book that has zero good reviews available online. If I look at Amazon, I can see that Ms. Capace has written all of the 50 books that are said to be the "definitive history" of their respective state. Really? How can one scholar create the definitive history book for each state? Historians I know might spend a lifetime studying the history of their home state, or a few states, but the whole country? Really? I can see that Ms. Capace bills herself as a writer/editor on LinkedIn but I do not see a proud resume, credentials, or a list of degrees. My theory is that Ms. Capace is a mediocre writer who has been paid to put ink on paper to sell pricey reference books to unwitting librarians and media specialists. And North American Book Distributors is just as complicit in the con game as Somerset Publishing. Perhaps they are even the same entity?

So who is Somerset Publishers? I can see from a Better Business Bureau (BBB) site that they are located in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, the same state as Nancy Capace. Somerset is not registered with the BBB. I can find no reviews of Somerset Publishers, they have no website, and no Internet presence other than perfunctory business listings. Who is North American Book Distributors? Here is a quote from the generic descriptions on their "About Us" page: "Since 1989 North American Book Distributors, LLC has been the leading distributor of reference publications specializing in state history. The history of individual states is being taught in schools and is becoming a focal point of the curriculum at various levels of education. Librarians and Media Specialists are looking for dedicated reference titles on the people, places and history of their particular state. Questions regarding state history information are some of the most frequently asked questions received by reference librarians." That's it. No names, no profiles, no photographs of people. Somerset Publishers could very well be a small printing press in Michigan that gets by selling mediocre books with scholarly-sounding titles. Reference works can be pricey, so Somerset gets to charge even more for their poorly researched and written books. Somerset is merely a book mill and nothing else.

What is an Illegitimate Publisher?

Why is Somerset Publishers an illegitimate publisher? Because they lack credibility and they produce a poorly written and researched product pawned off as the "definitive history". Let me tell you about the "West Virginia Encyclopedia", edited by Ken Sullivan in 2006 and published by the West Virginia Humanities Council. This is an excellent reference work for any library or media center. The articles are written by different scholars and historians from all over the state who specialize in one region or aspect of wild, wonderful West Virginia. The "West Virginia Encyclopedia" is a great model for how to know that a reference work has legitimate value and true scholarship. The publication utilizes many legitimate and experienced scholars who have spent years accumulating knowledge. These scholars are usually engaged in ongoing research and updating their field of knowledge by staying current on emerging information and interpretation. Many of these scholars are college professors and chairs who teach or specialize in a history field. The West Virginia Encyclopedia gets even better because you can access the whole document online, anytime here This is what a legitimate reference source looks like.

Definitive History of West Virginia

I love West Virginia history and it gets my goat that a publisher would try to tell me what the definitive title is on the history of the Mountain State. In my opinion, the definitive history is "West Virginia: A History" by John A. Williams and published by the West Virginia University Press. If you can only read one history book about West Virginia, this is a well-written and well-researched masterpiece that is still in print. And, Dr. Williams got his PhD from Yale. Legit.

Is This Illegal?

What Somerset and other illegitimate publishers and distributors do is not illegal. They have books with titles that sound like staple reference works and they sell them to librarians and media specialists who don't know any better. So by the time the book trickles through the levels of librarians no one has really had a good look at it. Sadly, I can see Somerset published books in the collections of major libraries and universities. Do they not have serious collection development departments that make wise and informed decisions about acquiring and cataloging new reference works? This is not illegal but it is certainly unethical.

So is Somerset Publishers all bad? Not necessarily. They do sell a complete WPA slave narratives archive in 19 volumes that sells for $1,995. Fine. But why pay almost $2k for something you can access for free via Project Gutenberg? The bottom line is this: as library professionals it is our duty to connect our patrons with the best information and to spend library funds wisely. Reference books especially should have lasting value. Just as North American Book Distributors says on the bogus site, "Questions regarding state history information are some of the most frequently asked questions received by reference librarians." This is the gap this scam fills. Be wary and be vigilant that these poor quality reference books end up on your valuable library shelf space. Patrons, scholars, students, and librarians deserve only the very best.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Future of Harman School

Many residents and patrons of Randolph County, WV have come into the Pioneer Library and are wondering about the future of next-door Harman School. During the week of July 4th, two tons of ceiling collapsed in the school making the entire building unsafe for population. Rumor has it that the plaster ceilings that are throughout much of the school were improperly installed with short nails. Gravity is now bringing those ceilings down. The good part is that this happened during summer break and no one was hurt. But imagine if this had happened with a full classroom. (*shudder*)

Harman School has approximately 170 students and is one of the few pre-K-12th grade schools left in the country. At one time, Randolph County had dozens of smaller, one- and two-room schoolhouses. Consolidation has lead to less schools which allegedly decreases cost and improves educational consistency and quality. Because Harman School is isolated on Route 33 in the Dry Fork Valley, 23 miles east of Elkins, the school has remained open even with a dwindling population. But what is the future of Harman School?

Local Residents Love Harman School

Local residents are passionate about keeping Harman School open. At the first meeting to discuss the physical facility of the school, local folks brought $55,000 to show their commitment and enthusiasm for contributing to the renovation and repair of the school. Many of these parents graduated from Harman School and their loyalty and love for this institution runs deep and true. Harman is proud of Harman School, their red and white colors, and the black panther mascot that serves as the symbol of this mountain community.

The Randolph County school year started yesterday, Thursday, August 14, 2014, and all of the kids who currently attend Harman School are being bused to various schools in Randolph County. Some parents have chosen to transfer their school-aged children to schools in Tucker County while others have chosen to home school. There have been some snags. Some children who are bused to Elkins have to get up very early to catch the bus into Elkins. The superintendent of the Randolph County Board of Education had to ask for a special exception for some of the kids to be on buses longer than the rules allow. So the bottom line is that some Harman schoolchildren are spending an hour or more one-way on a school bus. While the bus drivers work out the snags in the new schedule they might want to keep in mind that for kids who miss the bus it is hard for parents to drive 26 miles to deliver their child to school.

How Long Will Repairs Take?

At a recent meeting in Harman with Randolph County BOE Superintendent Terry George he said that his hope is that the pre-K through 5th grade schoolchildren will be back at the Harman School in four-six weeks. For the older kids it might not be until Christmas time that they are able to return. I can report that the repairs to Harman School have not yet begun. There is a bid process that will take time, though it is hoped that everyone is doing everything possible to expedite this process.

A recent fundraiser in Harman raised an additional $10,000. Local state representatives Denise Campbell and Bill Hartman are working hard to bring money to Harman School. Ms. Campbell recently announced another $60,000 from the state. The Randolph County School Board voted to shift another $60,000 in levy funds to the work in Harman School. The BOE has estimated that the temporary repairs will cost around $250,000, and so far (publicly) I can count only around $185,000 raised.

What About the Furnace?

There is another large issue with Harman School that I have not heard publicly addressed and that is the aged and antiquated furnace at the school. The Randolph County Board has always said that if the furnace dies at Harman School the entire school will close with no hope of re-opening due to a lack of funds. What is the estimated cost of repairing Harman School so that it might last for future generations? What if $250,000 is pumped into the school to make it safe but then this winter the furnace dies? I have not heard anyone address the long-term health of Harman School.

So what is the future of Harman School? I have sent some of my questions to local officials and will report back when I hear an answer. In the meantime, let me say that the closure of Harman School has shaken this community to its very core. At the library, we miss the kids. We have had a regular and weekly story time program for the pre-K-3rd grade kids for many years. At lunchtime, middle-schoolers and high-schoolers run over to eat lunch and use the computers. Let me just say...we miss you guys. While The Pioneer Memorial Public Library is a public library, we are also on school grounds and consider the Harman School children a top priority. We miss the young ones who are excited to check out books. We miss the middle school boys who like to come in and tease each other (mostly) good-naturedly. We miss the high school students who come in to check out the latest Young Adult fiction. We look forward to the return of the children to Harman School and the Pioneer Memorial Public Library.

To date, this is the most comprehensive article on the state of Harman School and the school children. Many thanks to Harman School Principal Tammy Daniels who is doing a great job in the face of dealing with this difficult situation. Many thanks to the Harman School teachers who had to pack up their classrooms and move them elsewhere. Many thanks to the Harman School kids and parents who have stepped up to try to save their school.

And let me add that the Pioneer Memorial Public Library remains open. Our funding is not dependent on the Randolph County Board of Education and we are a nonprofit entity. So even during the closure of Harman School, we remain open to serve the community. Stop by today and check out our collection of over 10,000 books, audiobooks, and DVDs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What is the Baltimore Book Thing?

The first time I heard about The Book Thing was from my mom who likes to cut out articles from The Baltimore Sun and send them to me. As soon as I read about The Book Thing in Baltimore, Maryland, I knew I had to go.

First the Bad Stuff

There are many things that may deter someone from visiting The Baltimore Book Thing. The building is located on Vineyard Lane just off 33rd Street in Waverly. It's a little hard to find. A recent visit was made when temperatures outside were in the mid-80s and I was made acutely aware of the fact that the Baltimore Book Thing has no air conditioning. If you go on a hot day you will smell yourself and everyone around you. But still, it is worthwhile. The Baltimore Book Thing is only open on Saturday and Sunday from 9am-6pm. Parking is limited.

All those deterrents aside, if you are a book junkie, you need to visit The Baltimore Book Thing. According to their website, The Baltimore Book Thing is the baby of a former bartender named Russell Wattenberg. The organization has been around Charm City since 1999 but moved to their current location sometime after 2005.

What's So Great About the Book Thing?

Free books. That's it, plain and simple. In the FAQ on The Book Thing website one of the questions and responses reads:

Is there a limit to how many books I can take?

You can only take 150,000 per day, per person. And they really mean it. I have filled up my car and my mom's car several times over with books to bring back to the Pioneer Memorial Public Library. The price means I can afford to be greedy.

The people who run The Book Thing are amazing at organizing their books. They are in subject sections just like a bookstore. They also do a great job of weeding out books that are in bad condition. I have never brought home a damaged book.

The Baltimore Book Thing gets books from all over the country. I took a class in the spring semester via the University of Tennessee Knoxville and one of my classmates works at a library in Tennessee where they ship all their unwanted books to The Baltimore Book Thing. Go Volunteers!

Multiple Copies of Book

Do you need a dozen of the same book for a book club? A recent visit revealed a box full of brand new copies of "To Kill a Mocking Bird" by Harper Lee. At the same time, I found a bunch of wonderful biographies that I had on my library's wish list. Sometimes, I feel like the book gods and goddesses are blessing me with the titles I seek. Book serendipity.

Find New Topics of Interest

Free books means that you can explore topics that maybe you were hesitant to dig into. I have recently started reading some biographies and true crime books (guilty pleasure) and was able to grab a box full at The Book Thing for free. My son has been hoarding books from The Book Thing by Stephen King and Isaac Asimov. When I am done with these books I can donate them to my library or the local Goodwill

Beware of Bullies

There is one more thing I need to tell you about The Baltimore Book Thing. It is about the time I visited last November. I was sitting on the rug underneath the children's book boxes digging through books just like every other person. (The rug, by the way, smells like cat pee. But still, it's worth it.) I glanced up at the shelf next to the boxes and saw two titles that were the same. The compulsive book sorter in me was forced to place the two titles together, you know, helpful like. Suddenly, there was a large, male presence over my shoulder. "M'am, please don't move the books." Really. I looked up and over my shoulder at the man standing over me with a big gut and a beard. I wanted to lay into him and let him know my bookie credentials. Doesn't this guy know I am practically the book queen of Randolph County, West Virginia? I took a deep breath. 'Free book, free books,' I said in my head a couple of times. I sucked it up and replied, "Oh. OK. I am sorry." Big beardy walked off, seemingly placated. It was a random chastisement that I will gladly pay in exchange for the number of free boxes of books that I have lugged back to Appalachia.

Free Boxes

And did I mention that The Book Thing has free boxes? Yeah, they do. As many as you need.

During the summertime, The Waverly Farmer's Market is just around the corner and super awesome. Normals, a collectively-owned and super-cool bookstore is also around the corner. Thank you, Book Thing of Maryland, for the hours of browsing, great conversations, fun people watching, and treasures scored. Free books, people. Book booty awaits you at the Baltimore Book Thing.