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Kim Wilson Owen at 10:49am March 23 I’m also reading Note to Self: 30 Women on Heartbreak, Humiliation, and Overcoming it All and Victorian Fairy Tales the Revolt of the Elves and Fairies. I have Anne Tyler’s Back When We Were Grownups and Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York’s What I Know Now Simple Lessons Learned the Hard Way… Read More on tap; have to re-read Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald for the library’s book club and we’re doing Who Moved My Cheese in my ladies’ book club (The First Rule of Book Club, heh!) this month and The Ten Year Nap for April… I’d like to read Inkspell

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Yes, Valentine’s Day is a greeting card holiday, and we should be celebrating connections with people we care about all year long. The odious onus of finding something to ‘show we care’ slaps us in the head yet again way too soon after Christmas. 

At my library my theme each February, and actually a guiding principle of my life, is ‘Love is Sharing a Story.’ That neatly ropes in everyone, old and young, coupled and uncoupled, childless and, uh, childed.

I ask people to tell stories, write them down, read with their baby even if their baby is 50 years old, or read with someone else’s baby. Write a rap, or a poem, or just spew out your irritation about some issue Lewis Black or Dave Chappelle style. Learn to podcast.

If everyone spoke honestly and spoke up, if everyone read together, or if every adult, parent or no, took a few minutes each day to share a book with a friend or a small child, this would be a different world.  

But I digress.

I’m reminded by the newsletter from my mother’s Church of the Epiphany– “Don’t forget those who are hospitalized, ill or shut in on Valentine’s Day. Send someone a card, or make a phone call. You will brighten someone’s day.”

This is what I hate about Christmas.

That didn’t come out right. I love Christmas. But I have a strong family, work, and social network to share it with. I have tried on, so to speak, Christmas without family or husband or friends. I can’t seem to make it fit. It just feels miserable. I would feel sorry for myself, even if I were comfortable financially and physically, had my health, had good food to eat, and books to read and quilts to quilt… it was just too sad.

So rack your brain or look around for someone who can’t leave the house, or folks you know at the hospital. People with long term inability to get out and fend for themselves in the rat race eventually get passed over in the rat race. Even families with the best of intentions tend to pass over the quiet one– the wheel doesn’t squeak, so to speak.

And then there are the mean old (or young, I guess) biddies (male and female!) or the neighbors always yelling at us to ‘Get off my lawn!’ or even the kids nobody likes or the trio of siblings who, you happen to know, are being raised by a grandmother who can’t even do for herself because she is very ill, won’t even come in and get the kids a library card, sends the kids out to do their own laundry at the laundromat, so they are pretty much on their own (though I know from experience that being on one’s own isn’t the worst thing that can happen, some serious self sufficiency, at least  in terms of life skills, can result, you do what you want, and at least nobody’s yelling at you).  Or the acquaintance who’s divorced or the single parent or the friend who’s ill or having marital troubles. What might brighten their days?

Put some candy in your candy dish. Stop by somebody’s house just for five minutes with a flower or a warm lunch or a pair of fuzzy slippers you found on clearance. Drop a card in the mail. What small good could we do in just a few minutes? Brightening someone’s day literally makes the world a better place and it just takes a second.

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“It is not true that we only have one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish.” — S. I. Hayakawa, beautifully stenciled on the back wall of the new Pike Road Branch Library

Yesterday’s opening celebration at The Pike Road Branch of Montgomery City-County Public Library, near Crockmier’s on Vaughn Road, was a very special and worthwhile occasion.

Pike Road’s library has always been something special. It has a caring and hard working Friends of the Library group and dedicated library users who assist a dynamic and creative librarian, Lynda Maddox. Supported by Montgomery Public Library’s centralized Extension, Administrative, and Collection Development departments, Lynda and a corps of dedicated volunteers have been running excellent library programs and services for years– in dilapidated trailers which have even lost their roof a time or two over the years during our very active storm seasons.

Several who spoke at today’s ceremony expressed gratitude for those trailers– and noted that today’s grand opening finally brings the Pike Road Branch and the wonderful work done by Lynda Maddox and the Pike Road Friends and volunteers to a facility that reflects the high quality of service, dedication, and patrons who are Pike Road’s library.

Even with the library jammed full of dignitaries, well-wishers, vases of fresh flowers, media cameras, members of the library’s board of trustees, library staff and delighted families with children, the first impression upon entering the library is of space and comfort. The retail space has been renovated to provide every useful and enjoyable aspect of library services– from funky, functional and comfortable seating in the magazine area to an enticing children’s area.

A retail space is often a wonderful place for a public library branch. The surrounding businesses bring people to the library; the library brings visibility for the surrounding businesses. Mr. Johnny Sullivan of neighboring Crockmier’s welcomed the library very kindly and asked that the library call upon him for any need.

The delightful decorations high on the walls marking the various sections of the library are beautiful altered books. Each letter of words like ‘Juvenile’ or ‘Fiction’ made a little work of art out of a book that was once too damaged to remain in the library’s collection. Marilyn Heard and George Evans created these and other finishing touches which are just the right mix of satisfyingly chic, and comfortingly, solidly antique.

A similar ethic was applied as the new facility was furnished. Library Director Jaunita Owes reminded the crowd that nothing from the old facility was thrown away. We have not lost; we have only gained. Much of the shelving in the new library came directly from the Pike Road trailers. With the help of Gaye Smith and Business Interiors, gains included tables properly wired for computer connectivity, elegant, dare I say funky, and truly comfortable furniture for the reading area, and attractive and functional additional shelving– all of which came together to compliment the way the space beautifully combined old and new.

Relationships were also a great gain from this process. New relationships resulted in greater understanding between all parties, greater creativity, greater bang for the buck invested, and an amazing end result. We hope we can continue to build relationships and experience this level of creativity, bang for the buck, understanding and teamwork as the public library strives to grow in ways that serve our community’s needs best.

Reverend Dilbeck of Pike Road Baptist Church said he was very sorry to see the library leave his neighborhood. The responsive Dedicatory Litany he led blessed all present with the reminder that we must commit to uphold the principles and values for which the library stands, and to daily support– with our time, with our finances, and with our pursuit of those values and principles– of our library’s service to the people of our community.

Longtime Friends of Pike Road Library spoke of the history of library services in Pike Road, dating back to when the Pike Road Library consisted of a bookmobile visit every two weeks– and the joy those visits brought residents. Elected officials very briefly and modestly highlighted their role as this project began to take wing, and spoke with great pride in this wonderful accomplishment of team effort. Each speaker’s words reflected the dedication and hard work of those who have brought this project to its beautiful and functional fruition. Library Director Jaunita Owes, whose gratitude, delight and pride were evident, was very thorough in her recognition of the varied contributions of so many dedicated people and agencies.

Speakers noted that achievement and excellence have their price, in money, and in hard work. Renovating, moving or building a library is an incredibly detailed and laborious practice, often guaranteeing grey hairs and high blood pressure for any librarian involved. But in balance, very little was said about the months and days and long, long hours required to make this happen. Focus was overwhelmingly on the joy of seeing it come to pass. The unbelievable smoothness of the transition was credited to the hard work of Pike Road’s Friends and volunteers.

Several speakers noted that children have been riding bicycles over to the library for weeks, pounding on the locked doors to ask ‘is it open yet?’ This speaks well of the need for the library’s presence at this location. Won’t those kids be thrilled now! It is also a reminder to those planning the development of that area of our community to remember the children, parents with strollers, and perhaps older adults who need it to be safe and accessible for walking and cycling.
I hope too that Commissioner Ingram’s mention of outdoor tables, a grocery and a possible coffee shop will come to be. Our communities need comfortable, welcoming ‘third spaces,’ open to all, where we can meet and mingle outside our separate churches and families and truly become community.

Long time volunteer Mrs. McCain was present handing out programs and reminding the attendees who continued to flow in to sign the guest book. She finally sat down after hours of assisting at the occasion. We spoke for a few moments and she said “I am so glad we have reopened! I’ve been going through withdrawals since the library closed! I even found myself buying two books!”

Buying books? The horror! No wonder the hard working Pike Road Library volunteers got the the library’s books packed, a week-long job at least, in a day and a half! They need their books before their passion for reading drives them to do something they’ll regret!

After the ribbon was cut to officially open the library, there was a stampede toward refreshments that were as delicious as they were beautifully presented. The Friends of the Pike Road Library and Incredible Edibles provided a lovely and truly Southern assortment that included ham biscuits, mini mandarin chicken salads and key lime tarts, sweets of every description, sweet tea, and the best cheese straws I have ever tasted. As the crush began to ease, I found a quiet spot to enjoy the occasion and my refreshments (two heaped plates!), socialize a bit with Mr. Pickette, President of the Friends of the Montgomery City-County Public Library, and simply people watch.

I saw a young parent in the children’s section using her cell phone to tell someone “it’s so beautiful!” Her face radiated delight. I am sure that on this one special day her delight in finding such a wonderful facility just wiped awareness of the library’s ‘no cell phone’ rule right out of her mind. It was just that good. I’m sure she can be excused just for today.

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