Everything Librarian: 2014

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. (Click on the picture below to make it larger. Wilma is listed as wistful, ladylike, lovable.)

Wilma Leary yearbook photo, Elkins High School 1937.

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.

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. You can also think of each email communication as a little bridge-building exercise. It is much better to build bridges than to burn them.

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.


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.

Emails and Emotions

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 respond 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 brief, meaningful quote after their signature which I usually like, but don't include a long quote or more than one. Too much info.


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.


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 and cooperate, 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:

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 so that these poor quality reference books don't 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.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Level the Literacy Playing Field - Adopt a Library

OK, this is an idea that has been rolling around in my head for months.

First, back in February of this year I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Big Talks From Small Libraries, a free online conference sponsored by the Nebraska Library Commission and the Association for Rural and Small Libraries. One of the speakers was Rachel Reynolds Luster, a librarian in Missouri who was featured in a story on NPR in 2013. She said that she received thousands of cash and book donations from all over the country after that story aired on NPR. From this outpouring of love and cash, it reinforces, to me, that people LOVE libraries and only want to support them, especially in small, rural communities. But how can anyone support any library nationally?

Based on this story it came to my mind that it would be great if the American Library Association (or some other national library organization) hosted/sponsored/supported an Adopt-a-Library program nationally. This program would allow people from all over the world to pick and choose the state and/or library that they wanted to donate to. As library director in a small rural community, I am quite sure there are more people from West Virginia who live outside the state than inside it because of lack of job opportunities here. If there were a nationwide Adopt-a-Library program it would allow libraries in small regions with less tax base to level the literacy playing field. The Adopt-a-Library program could even be as simple as a site that has links to a wish list for every library on Amazon or the like.

Out of State Library Supporters

Also, I have an amazing library supporter in Wisconsin who sends me a few boxes of items every year. This library fan is from West Virginia but no longer lives here, but wanted to support literacy in her home state. So Barb W. (you know who you are, you amazing person, you) contacted the West Virginia Library Commission and asked them about a small "up and coming" library in WV who in turn recommended the Pioneer Library. (Thank you, WVLC!) Many people from West Virginia have to leave to find work. I'm willing to bet that this is the case with MANY small libraries around the United States.

I wrote my BIG IDEA to the ALA and received a kind response from Susan Brandehoff, the Director of Program Development and Partnerships who was encouraging. She also recommended getting in touch with the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies and I Love Libraries (an initiative of ALA). I also thought my idea might strike a chord with the Association for Rural and Small Libraries (ARSL). I have librarian friends all over the country. Some have multi-million dollar budgets, others (like my own) have budgets under $35,000 per year. Smaller libraries with smaller budgets cannot compete nor provide the same services as larger libraries in wealthier tax bases. How can we level the library playing field so that every library has the same access to money and materials? Money and materials are the two things that make libraries go.

Who Wants To Have Their Library Adopted?

So there it is. People are passionate about libraries. People want to support libraries not just in their own communities. How can literacy and libraries continue to grow and thrive in small, impoverished parts of the United States? I know the West Virginia Library Commission is always pessimistic, "Prepare for budget cuts." This year West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin cut an entire line item in the state budget for special library projects. Times are tough, people. Let's pool our resources nationally, let's be a big supportive library team.

If we can find a national library organization willing to take this on, this could be an amazing place for little libraries to post their Amazon Wish Lists (it doesn't have to be connected with Amazon) and have complete and total strangers from all over the country (& world) who support libraries, literacy and lifelong learning buy items or contribute cash for your library. This could kind of be like Kickstarter for libraries. Let's do this people. Who's in?

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Civil War in Dry Fork: The Historic Ride of Jane Snyder

There is a lot of history in Harman, West Virginia.

Indians migrated through here and hunted here. Early settlers came here after the American Revolution, some as Tories defeated by the Colonials. Many settlers were Scotch-Irish, German, or Dutch. And then came the American Civil War. As all good West Virginians know, we were the only state created out of war because the entire state of Virginia was literally split on the issue of slavery. In many local areas, sentiments were mixed as to whom supported the Federal North, or who supported the Confederate South. Harman favored the Federal (sometimes called Union) troops.

The Civil War Comes to Dry Fork

In 1862, the American Civil War was in full force. Confederate Colonel John D. Imboden was leading a slash and burn campaign through northwestern West Virginia stealing supplies and destroying the railroad. The strategy was to obliterate valuable infrastructure and to leave Federal supporters without supplies.

But the town of Harman in the Dry Fork Valley region of Randolph County, West Virginia, was staunchly Union. There was a team of Federal scouts in the region lead by Captain John Snyder who had a 19-year-old daughter named Mary Jane Snyder, who was mostly called Jane. Jane Snyder is a somewhat legendary figure even though we know she was a real person who lived in this region. The story goes that Jane heard that Imboden was going to capture Parson’s Mill and blow up a B&O train bridge in Rowlesburg. The Federals at Parson’s Mill included Jane’s father, Captain John Snyder. Since Jane knew the few Federal scouts at Parson’s Mill would be horribly outnumbered she rode horseback through some rough country to reach the Mill before Imboden. Most accounts acknowledge that Jane arrived in Parson’s before the Confederates and that she probably saved the Federal troops including her father, and perhaps stopped the railroad bridge from being destroyed.

Consider Don Teter’s version of Jane Snyder’s story from his book “Goin’ Up Gandy:”

“Aug. 14, 1862, Confederate Colonel (later General) John D. Imboden left his camp at Franklin with about three hundred mounted men and, guided by Zeke Harper, rode across the mountains toward Beverly. Imboden hoped to surprise the Federals by riding through Saint George to attack and destroy the B&O Railroad bridge at Rowlesburg, so he avoided the Staunton-Parkersburg Turnpike across the mountains. They rode along game trails and followed ridges and streams until they reached the Glady Fork, about twelve miles northeast of Beverly, when they turned northward down Glady Fork, toward the Dry Fork.

Meanwhile, word of their presence in the woods had reached Horsecamp Run, and John Snyder’s 19 year old daughter Jane (1843-1908) had ridden down the Dry Fork to warn her father, who had gone to Saint George. She passed the mouth of Glady Fork before Imboden and his men got there, and warned the small group of Federals at Parsons’ Mill in time for them to escape.”

So while some might think that Jane Snyder’s ride was Civil War folklore or fairytale, her remarkable journey was chronicled in the Wheeling Intelligencer from August 22, 1862, “It was Capt. Snider’s daughter who came from Pendleton to bring the news of the advance of the rebels and their strength. She is a brave girl and deserves to be crowned a heroine.”

On August 26, 1862, an alleged eye witness Charles Hooten had his letter published in the Wheeling Intelligencer that concluded, “But for this heroic young lady, Miss Snyder, whose name and heroic deed should be remembered and rewarded, Capt. Hall and his men would, in all probability, have been destroyed."

An Anonymous Poem

A more romanticized version of Jane Snyder’s ride is found in Carrie Harman Roy’s “Captain Snyder and His Twelve of West Virginia (1977)” there is a long account of Jane Snyder’s ride in poem form that includes the following:

“The Midnight Ride of Jane Snyder, Anonymous

Thus they rode in that night which so many remember,
That terrible night of the stormy November,
When the winds through the pines on the mountains were roaring
And the torrents re-echoed with splashing and pouring
But the rebels while flanking the Federal pickets
Were flanked by a woman who rode through the thickets,
O'er by-paths and no paths, o'er mountains that rose
To the clouds, and their summits were spattered with snows;
And she out-rode, the Rebels and came in ahead.
They were balked, they were beat; for the Yankees had fled.
She had warned them in time, but no moment to spare;”

While I hate to pick at poems, as a historian I have to mention that Jane’s ride was in August (not November, but what rhymes with August?), and Ms. Snyder’s ride was in the early morning hours, not in the night.

So what really happened in August of 1862? By several accounts, Jane Snyder’s solo journey across 30-40 miles may have saved the lives and freedom of some Federal troops. Certainly the act of this one brave teen did not change the tide of the Civil War but it did send a clear message to the Confederates: this is not your territory and you are not wanted here. It also says much about the brave teen, Jane Snyder, who was willing and able to take a long journey by herself on horseback for the sake of her father and the Federal cause that he defended.

Not to deflate the history of Jane Snyder, but Imboden eventually returned in November of the same year and easily captured about 30 Federal troops at Parson’s Mill in West Virginia. This time, Imboden’s plan to blow up the railroad bridge at Rowlesburg was foiled when he learned that Federal troops were on their way.

Women have always played a powerful role in wars but much of that history may have been overlooked by the men who wrote the history books. Jane Snyder stands as a reminder of the power of women, family, and teenagers during wartime.

[Side note: It is interesting to note the discrepancies on Mary Jane Snyder Bennett's tombstone from Idaho which has an incorrect birth date and year. Some sources list her birth date as May 7 and her birth year as 1843. The tombstone seems to reflect May 17 as her birth date and 1849 as her birth year. I found Mary Jane Snyder in the 1860 census (parents John & Lucinda) and her birth year is estimated as 1843.]

Sources listed below are available for study at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, West Virginia. Also, this is a great site that includes a picture of Jane Snyder in her later years.

Roy, C. H. (1977). Captain Snyder and his twelve of West Virginia. New York, NY: Carlton Press.

Teter, D. (1977). Goin'up Gandy: A history of the Dry Fork region of Randolph and Tucker counties, West Virginia. Parsons, W. Va.: McClain Print.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Fling: Create, Collaborate, Communicate

The theme of this years spring fling West Virginia Library Association conference was "Create, Collaborate, Communicate". I may be wrong, but it seems like more folks come out for the spring conference than for the fall conference.

Conference Sessions

Held at the Days Hotel in Flatwoods, West Virginia, the first session I attended was "The New Change in Learning Express" presented by Susan Hayden of the West Virginia Library Commission. Presented with grace and humor, Ms. Hayden taught an overflowing conference room of librarians how to navigate the 3.0 version of the Learning Express through the West Virginia Info Depot. Many WV library users don't know about this wonderful online database that you help you find articles for research, take practice ACT and SAT tests, or figure out the sequence of your favorite fiction series that has 12 volumes.

The second session I attended was "Free Stuff From the Foundation Center" presented by Olivia Bravo of the Kanawha County Public Library. This was a helpful and informative presentation that talked about the resources available at grantspace.org and foundationcenter.org. These are great websites to explore so that you are familiar with funding sources, requirements, and deadlines.

Waffle Lunch

For lunch, I had the pleasure of going to a local waffle house with other representatives from affiliates of the Upshur County Library. (And thanks, UCPL, for the yummy lunch!) It is so nice to get a chance to see colleagues in other rural libraries who are strong, creative, and resourceful folks who love their jobs. You are all inspirational to me!

After lunch, I lead a meeting of the WVLA Directors Roundtable. There were about 20 attendees in the meeting and we took some time to consider a bookmark that highlights "The Power of West Virginia Libraries". We also had a chance to talk about funding loss, lack of Bibliostat participation by academic and special libraries, and about our goals for the roundtable group. My point of view is that this group of library leaders can work together to make this into whatever we want. As library directors we can lean on each other for support, input, and progress. Just like the theme says: Let's create, collaborate, and communicate with each other to help libraries move forward with secure funding and clear goals.

Mock Board Meeting

Perhaps the most helpful session (for me) of the day was "What a Board Meeting Should Look Like" presented by the Marsh County Public Library Board with Judy K. Rule, director. A board meeting packet is mailed to board members a few days prior to the meeting so that everything may go smoothly and quickly at the board meeting. This board whipped through an entire meeting in 30 minutes. Very impressive. The Library Director's Report was also a part of the board packet and included many important topics regarding funding, legislation, statistics, fundraising, and circulation. This is a model that I will encourage my library board to follow as it made this board meeting fast, friendly, and efficient.

Sunshine Law

There are also laws that need to be abided by regarding transparency in local government. The Sunshine Law mandates that library board meetings be posted publically, for example, in the local newspaper. The agenda must also be publicized prior to the meeting. Minutes of the previous meeting need to be in the "board packet" mailed to all members of the board.

By that time it was time for me to head home to get ready for my Collection Development class. It was great to be re-energized by all the great librarians at the WVLA Spring Fling. Thank you, WVLA, for this inspiring learning opportunity with a great view from the hilltop where the Days Hotel stands in Flatwoods, WV. Fall conference in October is at Snowshoe, WV. If I don't see you there, I'll see you at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Who Was Joe Brown of Whitmer, West Virginia?

A patron of the Pioneer Memorial Public Library was in the other day talking about a man named Joe Brown who was lynched in Whitmer, WV in 1909. He said that he had heard that chief of police of Whitmer, Scott White, admired two pearl-handled pistols of Joe Brown and had confiscated them when he arrested Brown. Later, Brown shot Scott in the head wounding him severely and the townspeople of Whitmer took Joe Brown and hung him for his offenses. What follows is an interesting piece of West Virginia history.

Who Was Joe Brown?

As a amateur historian and folklore follower I had to ask, 'Who was Joe Brown?' It turns out there is quite a bit that has been published regarding this episode in West Virginia history. An article from the now defunct Randolph Enterprise from March 25, 1909 reports that, "Joe Brown, a notorious character who had earned the reputation of an outlaw expiated his crime in shooting Scott White, Chief of Police of Whitmer and a son of Wash White mayor of the same town, early last Friday morning when Brown was taken from the jail at Whitmer by an orderly party of masked men and strung up to a flag pole on the principal street of the town."

Just this one paragraph leaves many questions about the events leading up to the lynching of Joe Brown. Allegedly, a party of 50-100 masked men overcame the prison guards at gun point and took Joe Brown to be hung. In a town as small as Whitmer, I speculate that the masked vigilantes would have been known to most. Also, the Chief of Police, Scott White, was the son of Whitmer Mayor, Wash White, implying that the power in the town of Whitmer was held by the White family.

Outlaw or Victim?

Another line from the above-referenced article says, "It was generally understood here that Brown also was to be brought to Elkins to have his arm dressed but these plans were altered and Brown retained in the Whitmer jail." The Chief of Police was taken to Elkins for medical attention on that evening's train. Joe Brown had a shattered shooting arm, and yet he was not taken for medical attention. This might imply that the animosity for Joe Brown was so great that he was left in the jail to suffer and to possibly allow for the capture and lynching to take place. Clearly, Joe Brown had a lot going against him in Whitmer.

The final line in the news article also reveals that, "Learning of the lynching upon his return from Washington, Governor Glasscock immediate[e]ly communicated with the Sheriff and Prosecuting Attorney, insisting upon a complete investigation. It is possible that the lynching may be investigated but it is doubtful if any more information could be secured than is now known for Brown was so cordially hated by the people of Dry Fork that those who composed the lynching party would be protected in every way even by those who did happen to known everything connected with the lynching." To this researcher's knowledge, no one was ever held accountable for the death of Joe Brown.

So, who was Joe Brown? Where did he come from? What are the true facts of his life and death? According to the same article, Joe Brown was born in Tazewell County, Virginia around 1861. He was hung around 1:30am on Friday, March 19, 1909. The story made the New York Times. This article says that Brown was hung from a telegraph pole while others say it was a flag pole. Either way, it was not a pretty sight. There is a photograph that was published of the dead man hanging but I will spare gentle readers from this sight.

According to historian David Armstrong, Joseph Brown was born in Tazewell County, Virginia, on June 29, 1868, to parents William Patton Brown and Lucinda (Whitt) Brown. Joe Brown married Susan Snyder Summerfield in Harman, WV. Brown's death record gives him a first initial of "W." and indicates that he was married and aged 45 at his death. I do like that Armstrong tries to give more positive attributions to Brown, but by most accounts he was a violent alcoholic and sure shot who enjoyed shooting men's suspenders off for fun.

Side Effects of the Lynching

The lynching of Joe Brown had many repercussions. In the book "Transforming the Appalachian Countryside" by Ronald L. Lewis, it is stated that Joe Brown had a sock stuffed down his throat after he was lynched in an attempt to speed up the dying process. Lewis also says that Whitmer could not get a liquor license approved two months later perhaps due to the drunken and violent nature of Joe Brown and his lynching. In an anecdotal telling of the tale on WV Angler, it is said that the lynch mob spent some time drinking before they did the deed.

On December 13, 1911, The Randolph Enterprise reports that Charles Edward Hedrick committed suicide because he was involved in the lynching of Joe Brown and could not resolve his actions. He was found by the railroad tracks with a self-inflicted bullet to the head. Hedrick was once a constable of the Dry Fork district and later served as chief of police for Whitmer.

The real facts about Joe Brown, who he was, and what happened over a hundred years ago in a remote rural town in West Virginia may never be known. What is fascinating is that people today are still talking about it and asking questions about the life and death of Joe Brown. There is no doubt that in the 19th century, wild and wonderful West Virginia was also wild and wooly.

Do you love West Virginia history? Check out the West Virginia section at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library the next time you are in Harman.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fizz, Boom, Read! Summer Reading Program at Pioneer Library, WV

I am having an exciting near-spring season preparing for the 2014 Summer Reading Program at the Pioneer Public Library in Harman, West Virginia. I'm taking a class in collection development this semester through the University of Tennessee, and it has allowed me to focus on choosing books to promote, books to purchase, and fun hands-on programs for kids and teens. The nationwide summer reading program theme is "Fizz, Boom, Read", and it is a science-focused reading program. Are you ready?

Collaborative Summer Library Program 2014

We received a large volume of suggested activities and crafts from the Collaborative Summer Library Program. There are also reading resources on their website, books they suggest to tie into the science theme, but the overall suggestion list is lacking in certain areas. For example, I see that the CSLP suggests many books that are in mid-series. For example, they suggest "Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins, (I think because it has an firey title), but you really have to read "The Hunger Games" first to understand the narrative. Another odd title suggestion was "I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863" by Lauren Tarshis. I think this book was recommended because it literally shows artillery "booms" on the front cover. There are books about white male inventors and scientists but very few that are about women and minorities in the field of science. (Not even a Marie Curie book? Sigh.)

Women and Minorities in Science: Children's Books

There are hundreds of other books that CSLP could have suggested but did not, but I have spent some time researching books that fill in the large gaps in the standard packaged suggestion binder. If you are a librarian with a summer reading program at your library I hope you consider this too. As librarians, we may not be movers and shakers, we may be more quiet seed planters. Just by having a variety of books available and featured allows young scientists and inventors to dream, plot, and learn. In the 21st century, still on the continuum of the civil rights movement we need our collections to reflect our audience and to glimpse beyond as well.

Summer Reading Suggestions

So, if you are a library with a summer reading program or if you just want some great suggestions of current and diverse science books for children I have a list below that you may find helpful. Many of these books are award winning books including: The Newbery Medal, The Caldecott Medal, or the National Science Teachers Association. Also, I have placed Amazon links within this blog entry. If you choose to buy books from Amazon using these links, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman, WV, gets a 4% cut. And, maybe I missed some. Do you have good suggestions for current science books for kids? My list is by no means complete. Please comment or email to let me know.

Animal Grossapedia
Bartholomew and the Oobleck: (Caldecott Honor Book) (Classic Seuss)
Benjamin Banneker (Journey to Freedom)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition
Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet)
Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth
Flush: The Scoop on Poop Throughout the Ages
Go Ask Alice
Break the Fossil Record (Ivy + Bean, Book 3)
Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions (and What the Neighbors Thought)
Locomotive (Caldecott Medal Book)
The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top: A Book About Volcanoes (Magic School Bus)
Marie Curie (Giants of Science)
Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Hardcover))
My First Day
Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today?: All About Weather (Cat in the Hat's Learning Library)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Rachel Carson: Fighting Pesticides and Other Chemical Pollutants
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Something Stinks
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
The Fossil Girl: Mary Anning's Dinosaur Discovery
The Moon Book
The New Way Things Work
The Stars
Tracking Tyrannosaurs: Meet T. rex's fascinating family, from tiny terrors to feathered giants (National Geographic Kids)
What If You Had Animal Teeth?
Who Is Jane Goodall? (Who Was...?)
You Are Stardust
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain

Fizz, Boom, Read needs some work, but together we can create a meaningful and fun summer reading program at the Pioneer Memorial Public Library and at your library too.