Now we can guess not only at the origins of all those Nora Roberts tomes, but The Rise and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, too.*
Pauline begins by describing how she began to acquire library materials.
We made a wish list, explained to the people the things that we needed. Sue Rasey was a representative of the future Friends of the Library, and she sent letters out to people indicating the things that we needed in the library. We got money and used books. We got art work, an oak table, chairs -- all kinds of things. And we got contributions for specific items -- we have an area around one of those picture windows with a loveseat, chairs and table. Donations were made for that. For the shelving, we had no shelves on the walls, and donations were made from the Lions Club and the Lioness and so forth. The Madams and Sirs at the Presbyterian Church gave money to buy chairs and so forth. So the initial expense that would have gone to the town was all covered by donations of people who gave to the library.
Can you tell me when you go about starting a library how do you decide what books to put in it?
Well, that's the point of a trained librarian. When I first started, I attended programs at other groups and I use to give a little pretest to ask what do you like to read. Community groups, community relations. You want to do this to involve people in the library and to do that I went out and did four or five different programs. Some of them gave us money. But this is part of the talking about the book selections -- the course in itself in library training is book selection. The first thing you learn is to know your public, what kind of things they are interested in. And all the time we were putting things together and people were coming into the library, no matter how busy I was, I stopped to talked to these people. I questioned their interests. I explained what we were trying to do. I took them on a tour of the library. This all is good PR. That's the advantage of having a trained librarian.
To me, the smaller the community the more you know how you have to have to make what you have go farther and I think that's important. In the regulations for a small town, you don't need somebody highly trained. In Wisconsin, up to this point, they're changing it now, but they had four grades of librarian. The Fourth Grade was for small communities. The only requirements were a high school education and workshop trainings. You learn systems of checking out books and so forth but all that other stuff that goes with a library you didn't really get into. They mention it at workshops but not enough to train you in it. Where when you have training to be a librarian for a degree in library you take numerous courses in selection and curriculum enrichment, and how do you find material in all these different areas, how do you know your public, and you are taught all of that in library class. You take courses in library management and reference work and all of those kinds of courses. Which all helps. You see I had a Grade One, in other words I could have applied to Milwaukee for a job because I have a Masters Degree in Library Science.
That was a real gift that you gave to the community.
It helped out, I'm sure. When we first started out we had little idea of what it would grow into. I had visited the library in Winchester, I had visited the library in Land O Lakes and they were very small. I never visited Mercer but I understood it was very small. I was hoping we could go beyond that. Especially with the building we had.
Our first concern was what were we going to put on the shelves.
What [books] did you have when you opened?
We put out a call for used books. Everybody laughed at me – they said all you're going to get are Readers Digest Condensed books. Well, we did get about eight boxes of those, but in addition to that we must have gotten several hundred boxes of good books. People went through their things and just weeded out their own libraries. We got a lot of classics, we got a lot of modern up to date novels, we got history books, we got science books. We had a good coverage by the time we got through.
At some point you had to put in an order for books.
Yes, I ordered at that time. I ordered mostly best seller fiction. Because we had here mostly adult readers -- although we're very pleased with our children's section -- but the basic circulation is adult material. And so we bought those and things that people look for in libraries that we didn't have covered.
How many books did you order the first year?
The first year we maybe bought a thousand books. Not all from town money we had gift money too. For periodicals, the Cerny Foundation bought our newspapers for us. They bought the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune and the Milwaukee Journal.
What is the Cerny Foundation?
The Cernys were summer people here. They originally came from Ironwood or Hurley and then they were summer people here and lived in Minneapolis. When he passed away, that foundation gave us money to pay for the subscriptions to newspapers in his memory.
Does that continue to this day?
No, they did that for three years, so we got started that way. Then they gave a big grant for the playground equipment at the playground so they have continued to make contributions to the community and the library was one of them.
Once we moved in we got our shelving and we had the volunteers all busy. We had all these boxes. Our community room was filled with boxes of books. Our amount of volunteers varied. People came as they had time when we were getting ready to open.
So you had pretty good community support?
Very good community support. The men helped put the shelves on the walls and they helped fill them as we cataloged. I would show them, I shelved and the next day they came, I'd tell them now move those over here. A man said I moved those yesterday. I said yes and you'll probably move them somewhere else. That's what librarians do -- they move books from place to place.
We didn't know just exactly what we needed for space and that's where we felt, you put it where you think you're going to have it and then you start adjusting back and forth so that you can fit in what you have.
Were you basing this on the Dewey Decimal System?
I cataloged the books. We had women typing the pockets. In the evening, kids, for instance the Byram children, we had kids around a circle on the floor pasting pockets and then they could stamp the ownership stamps on those. You put an ownership stamp on the book that says the name of the library so you can identify every book. They would stamp those. The parents were putting the numbers on the spine of the books. So we would have whole families come.
Stay tuned for the next installation of Pauline's interview!
*Checked out in recent memory only by Callie Bates. The Habsburgs, that is. Nora is still going strong without any help from me.