The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Carolyn Fry reflects on 35 years

Dear Dessa,

You asked me several times recently for my thoughts on my last 35 years spent employed by the Henderson County Public Library District. As the thoughts were not "jumping up and down" with their desire to get onto paper, I never got "round tuit".

Now that I am retired, they are "jumping" and I am taking the time to express them.

I have always loved reading and being read to and have used a library since a small child.

I remember when the bookmobile first came to Henderson County in 1957 as a part of the Warren-Henderson Library Project promoted by the State of Illinois to attempt to provide library service to rural areas.

Areas of Henderson County had been served by libraries before this, but the little library in downtown Biggsville shortly before this and then the bookmobile are my first major memories of library service in my area of Henderson County.

When the county voted in April 1959 to officially form the Library District, my grandmother, Mrs. Gladys Sandstrom, was elected as one of the individuals to serve on that board.

As a reader and library user, I was thrilled. When I went to college, I worked in the library at Western Illinois University and this was my first experience working in a library.

A neighbor of mine, Mrs. Ruth Danielson, was the first librarian for the Henderson County Library District, and when Lance Steele, the bookmobile driver at that time, decided he would like the summer off, I had the opportunity to drive the bookmobile in the summers of 1966 and 1967.

We operated the first summer reading program from the bookmobile in the summer of 1967 and children had to go to the bookmobile, even in Biggsville, to participate in the summer reading.

Marrying August 13, 1967, I left Henderson County and taught science and was school librarian at Bardolph High School in 1967-68 and then took time off from the library until August 1976 when we moved back to Henderson County as my husband Don had been employed to teach Vocational Agriculture at Southern High School, Sronghurst.

Again, the Library District was looking for someone to work part-time and I went to work on Monday and Friday at the library in Biggsville.

Eventually two days became three and then four and in June1986, I had the opportunity to apply for the position of head librarian. As Marjorie Dreher, head librarian at that time, had been talking about retiring for a couple of years, I had gone back to Western and taken library science classes, so I felt I had training beyond personal experience which qualified me for this position.

Thankfully, the Library Board also felt I was qualified and offered me the position.

Needless to say, I have been employed there until recently retiring.

Many changes have occurred in my years of serving at the library. From a beginning of typing on a manual typewriter, using a "charging machine", and writing things out by hand, we have gone to computers, scanners, electric typewriters, and writing things out by hand.

From having only hard cover books, we have gone to hard cover books, paperbacks, audio books, and videos on both the adult and children's level.

We have come from being able to request only non-fiction materials for adults to being able to request materials of all varieties (audio, visual, material) on all levels.

Print comes in a variety of sizes and children's books in our own library are now becoming classified as to reading level so that children in any school district which uses Accelerated Reading can take the school required test on the material read.

We have purchased four bookmobiles in the time the District has been in existence, two of them while I have been head librarian and moved from the building on Main Street in Biggsville to 110 Hill Crest Drive, still in Biggsville.

Our building is now four times larger than the one on Main Street and has a meeting room, public restrooms, public use computers, area for children's story time and a place to just sit and relax and read if so desired.

We have a special room for the genealogy materials and a significant collection of area microfilmed newspapers and census records as well as old school yearbooks, family histories, area pictures and numerous other genealogy related materials.

Gifts and family memorials have provided numerous resources for the library including outside plantings and comfortable inside seating.

Pennies collected by the Union - West Central Kindergarteners for 100 days of school have been used to purchase the computer tables and other classes contributed to other materials for the children's area.

Grants and gifts have allowed us to provide many of the resources we have available including our new library.

David and Mary Lou Hill and the First State Bank of Biggsville donated the land for our new building and a $250,000 grant from the State of Illinois helped make our building a reality in 2001. Assistance and support from many of our area citizens and our school districts made our move quick and inexpensive as compared to what I had heard to be the norm. Word circulated was that it would probably cost about $10,000 and we would be closed close to a month for our move to be accomplished. We were closed for one week and it cost us lunch for a group of community volunteers and the Southern High School of the Class of 2002.

Computers, microfilm readers, fax machines and numerous other materials have been purchased with State Grants over the years.

Our Summer Reading program is funded primarily with Per Capita Grant money. But the majority of our funding is provided by the tax payers of Henderson County and has always been appreciated and spent with care and the careful supervision by our Library Board.

I have worked with a number of Board members and Board presidents including Betty Eisenmayer, Fran Work, Gus Hart, Virginia Ross (who was President when we built the building), and currently Diana Russell.

All Board members have volunteered their time and expertise to assist with the development and maintenance of this service to our County and that assistance is very much appreciated.

I have also worked with numerous staff members over the years, currently including Anita Smith (who will be filling my position), Sandra Dunbar (who started out to work "a couple of days a month" as financial assistant and now works full time and does about everything), and Crystal Parsons (who is currently driving the bookmobile).

Tracey Bigger has worked with us and does the majority of the displays and bulletin boards and planning for summer reading, and Hannah Allaman is our current student employee.

Several high school students have worked for the library in recent years including Brooke Priesman who was our first and Brittany Nichols who still comes home from college and helps us catch-up at holiday time and during the summer.

Community support has been great and our children's programs are especially important to me.

Story time is every Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. in cooperation with West Central School District and Summer Reading is assisted by some area facility.

Mr. Dale Buss, West Central Elementary Principal, provides ice cream in September for any elementary students who complete at least the first level in the summer reading program, and last fall approximately 150 students ate some of Mr. Buss's ice cream.

In recent years, area residents have also made Gingerbread Houses in December (primarily children but open to all ages), come for tea with Fancy Nancy in the spring (primarily young ladies), and attempted to blow up the meeting room as Mad Scientists (mostly young men) in early summer.

Often in the spring at least one class from school visits as part of their class trip and on numerous occasions Head Start has come to visit at some time during the year for stories and crafts.

In the years I have worked in the library district the library has expanded in numerous ways.

From being a small facility and a bookmobile with books, it has grown to provide varied formats of materials, public computer internet access, a meeting area and special programs.

We still have books and we still have the bookmobile which visits the schools and several of our county communities, but we have expanded and will continue to do so as needs change.

In my last few days at the library, numerous people stopped in to wish me an enjoyable retirement and tell me they thought I have made a contribution to the community during my years working.

I hope this is true and know that library service will continue to grow and expand with the capable staff available.

I have enjoyed working with the library board and staff and the public and appreciate having had the opportunity to watch many of our youngsters grow up reading and now returning to the library with their own youngsters to participate in the programs offered.

Selecting materials for the library was one of my favorite aspects of the position and I felt I had spent our tax money wisely when materials were borrowed by numerous people.

I am sure the staff (and a few of our public) will miss my musical renditions of the titles on our shelves - including "Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Oh What a Hectic Day", "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmoose", and "Ragtime Cowboy Joe".

For Tracey, our photographer, I'll have to stop in during May as they work on the upcoming summer reading theme which includes Knights and Castles and sing "Someday My Prints Will Come".

I know I will miss seeing our faithful patrons on a regular basis, but hopefully I will continue to see them around the community.

I am proud of the library facility we have in Henderson County and hope our citizens share that feeling with me.

If you haven't visited the Henderson County Public Library District Library in Biggsville recently, now is the time to do so. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 to noon and 1:00 to 5:00 on Saturday so should be available to most of our residents.

Or to find out when the bookmobile is in your community, call the library at 309-627-2450 during business hours and the staff will be glad to share the schedule with you.

Lots of things are available for your use - including income tax forms which will be toward the end of January.

I can't begin to share all the memories I have of my years at the library but as Bob Hope would say "Thanks for the memories".

I hope many of you have memories of the library which I helped to build and hope your memories of the library will continue to grow. Read! And enjoy it! I intend to.


Carolyn Fry

Henderson County

Public Librarian, Retired