On this special day of National Library Week, we honor those who drive bookmobiles and connect the farthest flung of our citizens to library materials we urban dwellers take for granted. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the dedication of these heroic librarians than by sharing a book about them with young readers.
DOWN CUT SHIN CREEK: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer, Harper Collins, 2001.
Spend a day with a pack horse librarian and your appreciation for your neighborhood library will soar. Authors Appelt and Schmitzer, who is a librarian and webmaster of “Pack Horse Library,” open their thoroughly researched chronology of the Kentucky Pack Horse Library with a chapter titled, “An Ordinary Day. The Way it Might Have Been.”
These talented authors take you there. Feel the cold seeping through thin clothing, the sting of sleet against your face, the hunger gnawing at you as you make your rounds and deliver the prized and welcomed but already worn books and magazines, donated for you to deliver to eager readers on your route. You are one of these people. You live in these hollows. For your pre-dawn to dark deliver route, you are paid the grand sum of $28/month. This job feeds your family. It feeds minds too.
Pack horse libraries were considered one of the most well-liked rural outreach services. The librarians not only introduced many to books, they inspired a love of reading.
It’s possible that a pack horse librarian inspired a young Kentucky teacher who in turn played a part in making our library system what it is today. In 1956 United States Representative Carl D. Perkins from Kentucky sponsored the Library Services Act. This act made the first federal appropriations for library service and helped provide funds “to establish new libraries, build branch libraries, purchase bookmobiles, buy library collections, and hire new librarians.”
Now is a good time to contact your congressional and legislative representatives and ask them to continue what Mr. Perkins started. Hurry! Support library funding.
Here’s a phone number to get you started: Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121