The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Columns

October 27, 2012

Rural libraries are lifelines to communities

— “I’ve got to get to the bookmobile at 10,” Mom informed me Friday when I called her a few minutes before 10 a.m.

We hadn’t talked in three days, but priorities are priorities. She was meeting my niece and aunt there to swap their just-read books for new ones.

The Summers County Public Library’s bookmobile is a blast from my past and those of many others who remember the days before rural counties had freestanding libraries. Schools had rooms with some books, but a community library didn’t exist in any of the counties around where I grew up.

At that time in Monroe County, there was a 1940s or 1950s circa retired school bus that had been commandeered into library service. It had “Monroe County Bookmobile” painted on the side. It visited the schools. Bookmobile day was always an exciting day. That was our only interaction with a library.

Thanks to the hard work and generosity of many folks, Monroe and Summers counties have their own libraries. Monroe even has a branch in Peterstown. Hinton is the only municipality in Summers County, so, obviously, the library is based there.

But the library, under the watchful guidance of Myra Ziegler, obtained the money to buy a sleek bus that visits communities around the county each week, including Forest Hill, where everybody in my family but me lives.

And it’s pretty exciting. My niece is quite fascinated with the whole process. This is her first experience of waiting expectantly for the bookmobile to arrive.

While my family is fortunate enough to have their own transportation to and from Hinton, the bookmobile provides a great public service to those who don’t. And it’s a handy convenience for those who do and don’t want to make a special trip.

I’m sure that readership is picking up because the bookmobile is making books available where people live. Available books mean improved literacy, and improved literacy means a more active and proactive citizenry. It promotes the best of the Jeffersonian ideal of public education of the masses.

And reading is just plain fun.

Rural libraries provide so much more than books. They are community centers and history repositories. They offer literacy and GED classes. They provide Internet service for people looking for jobs or a way to email their families.

Not everyone is affluent enough to have a computer and Internet service or even a smart phone. Those without are caught in the crack of the digital divide — the region separating the haves from the have-nots in a society where technology is the means to take advantage of what society has to offer. For them, the library is truly a lifeline to the outside world and to opportunities that many people take for granted.

The same library that provides this blast from the past also provides the means to a future for so many.

I hope the bookmobile and the library will continue to find support — moral and financial — in their service to the community. On behalf of my family, thank you.

Young is a Register-Herald columnist who hopes to be able to visit the bookmobile during the holidays when she is home in Forest Hill. Email: ynerissa@frontier.com.

© 2012 by Nerissa Young

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