The Unquiet Librarian
BY VIRGINIA ROBERTS
Director, Rhinelander District Library
“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.” ― Ray Bradbury
Bradbury wrote many things. He wrote short stories and novels. He wrote poetry and television and movie screenplays (Twilight Zone or the John Huston adaptation of Melville’s Moby Dick—an experience he recounts in an excellent and strikingly funny memoir Green Shadows, White Whale.) Farewell Summer is the title of a book by Ray Bradbury. Written late in his long and storied life, it was positioned as a sequel to Dandelion Wine, a book my generation read mostly in high school. It was thought Dandelion Wine was something teens, particularly in my area, could relate to as the setting was in flyover country U.S.A. A place he called Greentown, but was modeled on his home Waukegan, Ill.
The thing is Ray Bradbury wrote most of his early work on a rented Smith Corona Manual Typewriter in main branch of the basement of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Indulge me for a moment here. This is going somewhere. It is exactly going to embarrass my children. Summer is officially over at my house. Now I know summer doesn’t conclude (thankfully) until late September, but all the signs are there. Number One Son is employed in housing administration at a university—where students began moving in last weekend. MidKid begins her senior year, as The Baby starts her junior year—which has already begun with sports practice and marching band—at RHS. Summer Reading Program has mostly concluded, and the visitors have started to return to wherever they call home. Librarians know these things because the return of material before the exodus has been impressive.
And all of this makes me a little melancholy, because like for all of you, another season has passed. The sumac is starting to turn bright. The children are returning to routines that don’t include bike rides to the lake at 6 a.m. with the dog in tow or reading entire books in a day for fun. And there is this appearance of not a lot of progress on the library building project. Well, that’s not exactly true. See, a great deal of groundwork must be laid to make this project a success. The collection is being evaluated and honed to make space for newly published materials on the overflowing shelves and find space for collections that have run out of space where they are currently housed (Wisconsin History and Young Adult). A new Adult Services Librarian was hired (if you see Sarah, tell her hello), to provide information and technology support—her desk placed in an public area, where she may be of most help. DVDs and music were relocated due to some most necessary shelving built by Fred Godding with a grant from the Mead-Witter Foundation and matching funds from the RDL Foundation in 2015. New computers have been purchased for the Children’s Department and other behind-the-scenes tech upgrades have been done or are in the works. Friends of the Library has been formed—their next meeting is Sept. 13 at 1 p.m.–to be the “boots on the ground” and get Pete the Penny rolling again, among many other volunteer opportunities. The City of Rhinelander has also contributed by a welcome extension of the Streetscape Project from Rives to Frederick. Shortly, the Foundation will assist again in much needed computer replacement and window treatment upgrades. So, for those of you wondering what is happening with the building project, these are some of the necessary first steps. There are other things that must be done before the weather grows too cold. It’s a bit like a pebble rolling downhill. It’s tiny and moving slowly, but by the time most people see it, it’s picked up speed and is the size of the boulder that was dynamited from Brown Street. Welcome to the Rhinelander District Library’s building renovation pebble.
“Libraries raised me…I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years…At the end of 10 years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
No doubt, Bradbury’s love of knowledge and comfort and familiarity with libraries started in his own Carnegie Library in Waukegan, when he was a boy. He loved it so much; he helped build the future of that city with a library that bears his name, there, now.
When we send our children out into the world, we need them to be capable, resourceful humans. Knowing how to use a library and information is a large part of that. For this library building to remain as a bridge to the past and conduit to the future it will need your help. Stop in. Visit. Take a tour. Join the Friends of the Library and volunteer at programs, events and other fundraisers. Be part of the past and the future. No contribution is too small or too large, no act too small or big. Contribute over time. Don’t wait. Your library has always been here for you, now it needs your help. Thank you.
Virginia Roberts can be reached at 715-365-1082 or [email protected].