Friday, May 07, 2021

April is big month for library appreciation

| April 11, 2021 12:00 AM

In case you were unaware, April is a big recognition month for libraries.

National Library Week wrapped up April 10, National Bookmobile Day was April 7, School Librarians Day was April 4, National Library Workers Day is April 14, and the entire month of April is School Library Month. If all this isn’t reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

As a writer, libraries have been an important part of my life, and I was recalling the other day the fondness we had for the neighborhood bookmobile. Even in the rural enclave of northwestern Minnesota, the bookmobile made regular summer stops at Rikka Larson’s house a few miles from our farm.

My brothers and I would pore over the shelves, pulling out volumes that were sure to take our imaginations all over the world. At that time the Lake Agassiz Regional Library based in Moorhead, Minnesota, sent out the mobile library to make sure us “farm kids” wouldn’t fall behind. In retrospect, what a gift that was.

A bit of research revealed the Clay County Bookmobile that served our area began delivering books in 1949 and was one of the first bookmobiles in the state.

Here in the Flathead, the Columbia Falls Bookmobile continues to make the rounds during the summer months to keep kids reading and their minds engaged until school starts up in the fall. That project got off the ground a few years ago when educators Betsy Kohnstamm and Amy Hanson saw the need and stepped up to provide the service.

Bookmobiles launched in America at the turn of the 20th century, and librarian Mary Titcomb is credited with being among the first to set up a horse-drawn library wagon that sent books to general stores and post offices. Librarians have known the value of literacy from Day One, it seems.

There are few resources as valuable as our own ImagineIF Libraries here in the valley. If you haven’t checked out their myriad services, you’re missing out. They offer so much more than books.

The library system has been challenged to keep pace with the recent population growth in the Flathead and the demand for services while operating on a tight budget.

Most recently the library board has contemplated asking voters in the next couple of years to support a small property tax increase to sustain library services. This is one levy request I wouldn’t have to think twice about supporting.

I wouldn’t call myself a voracious reader per se, but I highly value books and the perspective they can give one’s life, and I usually have a book on the nightstand. I can even remember where I was when I read some of my favorite books. While I was living in Austria in the mid-1970s and a little homesick, I immersed myself in “Roots: The Saga of an American Family” by Alex Haley. I didn’t have access to many English volumes at that time, so it was pure delight to lose myself in that compelling, epic story.

I was riding Amtrak to Fargo when I ready “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier, a novel of historical fiction that passed the time through North Dakota.

I read chapters of “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen each night during an autumn week in 2010 when I helped Mom get ready for a huge yard sale as she prepared to move off the farm.

And that’s the beauty of a good book; it allows you to escape daily life and all its challenges and be swept away to another place. That’s something social media or computer games just can’t do.

Take the time to thank a librarian this month. Being on the front lines of literacy is important, if not vital work.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or