I grew up in Centerville, Iowa. My mom and I would walk to the Drake library every Saturday morning. I loved the place, the light seemed magical streaming through the giant windows. I remember the children’s area vividly. Mrs. King knew everything and remembered my favorite authors and subjects. She was always glad to see me and I would talk to her as long as I could. She had a whole strip of school pictures from all the area kids up on a bookcase.
Upstairs was a formal area. People spoke in hushed tones and glided along picking out titles. Dorothy Owens bustled around and Gerlinde Lutke checked out titles to adults. Kids were seen not heard. The magazines were all on a couple of giant tables behind the circulation desk. Mom and I would fill up bags of books and magazines and drag them home. My schooldays followed a strict pattern; school, snack, play, dinner, read. I read all the time. I read when I should have been cleaning my room, I read when I should have been asleep! I would look at my mom’s library magazines when she finished with them. I loved Rolling Stone and Family Circle.
Computers didn’t exist in homes back then. We would be allowed to play Oregon Trail on the computer in the school library once a week. We didn’t have a telephone in our house. The television turned on for the news, Dallas, and Fantasy Island and then sat silent. The social networks back then were the school playground or the local grocery store checkout.
The library was where I landed my first job. I spent one whole summer typing up cutter numbers for shelf cards and spine labels. I used a typewriter and sat in the reading room clacking away eight hours a day. I continued to work there during my high school days. The library job didn’t do much for my popularity, but neither did my complexion or my Sun In streaky hair. Gerlinde would feed me crackers and butter when we stayed in the dungeon repairing books in the evenings.
I have worked at this library on four different occasions during my life. My most recent job title has been Library Director for the last eight years. I will be leaving in a few weeks to start a new chapter in my career. The thing about the Drake Library is that it endures. Few things in life stay the same, divorces, death, new pets, old friends; people change but the Drake Library endures. The building sits at the head of Drake Avenue, majestic and stout. Stores come and go, restaurants close, families move in and out of the area. But people return to Centerville for Pancake Day, Homecoming, and often visit the Drake Library.
I will have new co-workers, new library patrons, and a new building to manage as Director of the Adair County Library in Kirksville, Missouri. Stop by and say hi if you are ever in Kirksville—I mean it, I will miss my people!
I will remember the Drake Library. I will remember the creaky freaky glass floor, the portrait of Governor Drake, the patrons that come in every day. I will remember who reads John Grisham, who hates due date receipts, who calls in to renew and the ones that say they already paid that library fine.
JeNel Allen Barth will be the interim Director, she has been here for some time and will handle things! Stop in at my going away party on Wednesday February 10th between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. I wish the best for the Drake Public library and all the people that visit the library. Thank you for a great run! Here’s an old joke for you: Old librarians never die, they just get renewed.