Outside The Lines, A Library Story: One Book, Or Two, Makes A Difference

Joe Rector, library director, and Bill Kennedy, development director and writer of this post, were talking about how to communicate the library plan. I asked him why he became a teacher and eventually a library director. He sat back in his chair and looked around his neat but very crowded office, full of books that no longer fit on the library floor.

“I wasn’t a good reader. My 1st grade teacher sent me to 2nd grade with deep reservations. I remember going to the school library and seeing a book called Black Hawk, Young Sauk Warrior, by Cathrine Cleven, one of the Childhood of Famous Americans Series,a 3rd or 4th grade level book.

Joe’s Book

I took it home and read it that night. I just made up my mind I was going to read it, sounded out the words. Finished it. I read most of the books in that series. At the beginning of the year, I was a non-reader. By the end of the year, I was at the top of my class in reading.” Joe’s final words were, with a big smile on his face, “A real tribute to the library.” Joe grew up in Battle Creek, Michigan, where he read most of the baseball books in the juvenile section of Willard Public Library.

I sat back in my chair with a bigger smile. “This is weird. My mom took me to the downtown library in Peoria, Illinois. The kids’ books were arranged by shelf, 1st grade on the bottom, up to 8th grade on the top shelf. I was in third grade and took a book out. Mom smiled. It was from the 4th grade shelf, the one I could reach. I took it home and read it that night. From then on, we went to the library every week. She took out 3-4 books; I took out the limit, 8.”

“Ok, what was the book?” Joe asked.

Chief Black Hawk, by Frank L. Beals, one of the American Adventure Series.”

Bill’s Book

We high-fived, knuckle-bumped and smiled.

Co-incidence? Yes.

Important? Yes.

It illustrates how one library, one book, or two, can make a difference.

Bill Kennedy

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