Libraries give us souls

By: Paul Johns
Published: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 12:08 AM CDT
Christian County Headliner News

When not working at farm chores during the summers when I was a boy growing up in Christian County, there was little to do. I never saw any of my classmates during those summer months—our farm might as well have been in a foreign country. Dad did buy a new Sears Hotpoint (black and white) television when I was 7, but TV really was a not-so-vast-wasteland in those days. Two stations in Springfield and not much in the way of programming. So, when I wasn’t out in the woods enjoying nature, I did something to past the time that I am very grateful for today. I read.

I would go with my father on Saturdays to the Farmer’s Exchange in Ozark to get his feed and while he was busy, I would run over to the nearby Christian County Library. It was tucked into a quaint building and filled with books. I would check enough out to last me through the week. I read everything—from non-fiction of all kinds to every kind of novel the library carried. If I was interested in a subject, the friendly library staff would help me find a book about it. Lucile Anderson, Ruth Davis and Freida Sweet were the gatekeepers to a vast world for me.

Then I would take the books home and read the words written by someone who lived far from Christian County; someone I would never meet, but who was talking to me across the miles and sometimes from beyond the grave. Sitting in a chair or lying in bed, I would be transported to another place far removed from the small bit of the world I knew. I would live other lives vicariously, soak up others experiences, learn and learn and learn.

The library was a wondrous place for me, and still is. Nowadays the library is far different than the one I knew. But it is still a storehouse of stories and ideas that can make us think, make us grow, make us learn and even change our lives. The young people of today deserve a modern up-to-date library that fits the needs of a child growing up in a world of technology.

In the hard economic times that face us now, there is one thing we can not scrimp on; one thing we can not do without—and that is knowledge. Our children must be prepared for whatever comes along and a good library is the foundation for that preparation. A good library provides students of all ages with a resource that can improve the education they are receiving at any level.

Our county is part of a region that has long been called “an arrested frontier.” But in researching the lives of our ancestors I find one common element—the poorest, most uneducated person in these hills often kept a small library of treasured books in their home. They read and re-read them and borrowed books from neighbors. Soldiers from Christian County during the Civil War often carried at least one book with them to read in the evenings or while waiting for the impending battle.

Today Christian County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. In addition, we have some fine school systems and we are close to several fine universities our children can attend. Our library system must complement those educational institutions.

A Roman philosopher once said, “To add a library to a house is to give that house a soul.” We all can’t afford to add a library to our house because we don’t have the room and books are expensive. But together, and that is the key word—together—we can make our county library one to be proud of and one that will continue to be a soulful place.

Paul Johns is an account executive for the Nixa Xpress and writes a weekly history column for the Headliner.

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