Library Story

A Library Story: Libraries and Elementary Schools

Deb Hornung

                                                  3nd Grade Teacher, St. Johns Academy, Jamestown, ND

The James River Valley Library plays a very important role in the elementary classroom.  I have taught elementary children for over 30 years, and have depended on and worked closely with the library throughout each school year, at all levels of teaching.  I have used the library for thematic teaching units, to find as many resources as possible in order to peak student’s interest on a topic, and I also have borrowed books on a monthly basis to use for oral reading when studying heroes of character, such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa.                                                                                

I love the system of calling the librarian and upon communicating the need, she gathers the books of interest for me.  When I arrive, my books are ready, and it is always such an efficient system of enhancing my lessons.  Many teachers in our district use the library in much the same way, and we all encourage our students to get involved in the library programs throughout the school year and in the summer.  We have a direct connection with the librarians, and they are always more than happy to accommodate our needs.                                              

I am thrilled also, that the library offers free books to educators when they have discards.  I have used this benefit throughout my years of teaching and will then donate books to children after using them in my classroom.  I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of a great relationship between our elementary schools and our community library system.  We are blessed to have a great resource at our fingertips and we utilize the library on a continual basis.      

Library Story

A Library Story: Libraries and a World Traveler

Andy is an English lecturer at the University of Wisconsin, Stoudt. He has his MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN.

I don’t have any one single story about libraries playing a role in my life, but they’ve always been important. They were especially important for the year and a half after college. I took a year off before grad school to work as a caddy in Chicago and on the Oregon coast, and travel through Australia. Because I never stayed in one place very long, I depended on public libraries for internet so I could stay in touch with friends and family, keep up with current events, research graduate programs, and communicate with the graduate programs I was considering. As an aspiring writer, I depended on libraries as my source for books and films and was able to continue educating myself during that time between college and graduate school.

Library Story

A Library Story: Woodworth, ND to Mableton, GA

Stephanie Loose grew up on a farm outside of Woodworth, ND. She had a two year enlistment with the U.S. Army, permanently stationed at Fort Campbell, KY where she worked as an equipment supply specialist and had temporary duty singing for the post’s choir. She went to work as a receptionist in Salinas, CA where she remained for 40 years, eventually becoming partner in the CPA firm of Ingraham & Loose. She has a BS in Accounting from Golden Gate University. She was actively involved in local & state politics as a political treasurer in CA. Semi-retired, she now lives in Mableton, GA with her husband John Avery, a retired police officer. She has two children who live in Minnesota and Arizona with their families. Much time is spent traveling the world. Lately, she’s started to be an extra on movies & television shows.

                                                          Woodworth to Mableton

As a young reader, I knew I liked Burgess books. I recall the shape, size and art on the cover and where they were located. I was very surprised years later, when I realized Burgess wasn’t the type of book, but the author.

I was the school librarian for three years at Woodworth High School. All juniors and seniors were required to write a paper on a topic of their choice. We would travel by bus to visit Alfred Dickey Library in Jamestown where we learned about the Dewey Decimal System and how to use the card files.

Not sure why, but it still brings about an excitement when I think about it. Maybe it was the empowerment I felt when I found what I was looking for. I’ve come back to Alfred Dickey library at various times since I left North Dakota in 1975. The Alfred Dickey Library aroma always brings back memories of my high school research.

As a parent in California, I was always within walking distance of the John Steinbeck Library and walked there many times with my son to get our reading material. I organized candidate forums here, in one of rooms available to the community.

Now, a resident of Mableton, Georgia, I live very close to a library. My last trip there wasn’t to get books though, it was to see the total eclipse of the sun.




Library Story

A Library Story: Rediscovery

Jill Pfaff

My library story really begins quite recently. It started when I accepted a position working at the James River Valley Library System. Prior to working for the library system, I honestly did not give much thought to the library other than it being a potential source for me to acquire my next book. The library has always been a “given” so to speak.

Growing up, my parents and most of my siblings were avid readers. Our home bookshelf housed a full set of encyclopedias, books on faraway places, on animals and many of the classic novels.  My parents encouraged reading and I fell in love with reading.

The library has always been in my life, beginning with my school libraries. I began school in a small North Dakota town and I recall getting on the bookmobile to pick out something that our tiny school library did not have. when I was ten years old, our family moved to Tucson, AZ, and I had access to numerous types of libraries. I realize now that I am very fortunate to have this privilege.

In the few short months since I began working for the library, I have come to realize what the library means to others. The library is not just a place to borrow a book. The library is a place to meet with friends and to spend time with loved ones. It’s a place to study, to work, or to spend quietly reading and reflecting. It’s a place to have a meeting or a group event. Lastly, it’s obviously a source of entertainment in more ways than one could possible imagine. I love seeing old friends meet for a game of chess and young friends playing games and interacting with each other on the computers.

I have discovered that the library is a great place to begin to search for family history and records. there is so much history within the pages of the books housed on shelves and on the reels of microfilm. Here all this time I thought that to begin a genealogy search began with google or with a subscription to!

I have rediscovered the library and for me it’s been a great discovery. I will never look at the library the same way again and I’m thankful for that. I hope to let as many people as possible know what the library has to offer.


Library Story

A Library Story: Community Quality

Dr. Jo-Ida C. Hansen

Professor of Psychology, University of Minnesota

Like many people, I am sure, who grew up in Jamestown, I have fond memories of the Alfred Dickey Free Public Library.  My parents, Gordon H. & Charlotte H. Hansen, who owned the Jamestown Sun were seriously avid readers.  I have no doubt that they made sure I had a library card at a very young age.  I do remember trips, as a kid, to the library to pick out a stack of books to borrow.  I think a limit was imposed on how many volumes each library card holder could take home – and I always had an armful that maxed out the allotted number.  The due date was in 14 days, and I rarely had to ask for a renewal.

When high school rolled around, we had papers to write and the library became a mix of scholarly research and youthful socialization (conducted in whispered tones).  Those were the good old days when the high school was in the center of town and a short walk from the library.  For those of us who loved having such easy access to so many books, the memory of the musty smell of old book pages often invokes positive recollections.

I live in Minneapolis-St Paul now, but I frequent Alfred Dickey a couple of times a year, when visiting Jamestown, to use the free Wi-Fi service.  I still feel obliged to speak in low tones even though the culture clearly has changed.  People are meeting to play chess, others are engaged in another favorite activity of mine – working on a puzzle.  Children are arriving with their “trailing adults” to engage in various activities.

The quality of a community – the livability index – is judged on many dimensions – quality of schools and health care, affordable housing, income, vibrancy of the downtown and retail, employment, manufacturing, recreational facilities, engagement in the arts, and so on.  The availability of an historic library that strives to embrace the latest technology and to open doors of learning to the entire community (and surrounding area) is another important indicator of the livability of Jamestown.

As one whose formative years benefited greatly from the Alfred Dickey Library, I am pleased to be able to support the Centennial Initiative and reassured to know that the community of Jamestown continues to support the library.


Library Story

A Library Story: Learning to Read

Alice Mueller Harris

Alice has travelled extensively over the years.  She is currently on disability and lives in Jamestown, ND with her service dog Blue.

Not long after World War II in 1950, my family took a ship to the United States from Germany to make a new start. There were ten people in all; my father, my mother, her mother and father, her three brothers and three sisters. They found their way to Chicago even though they spoke only German and Polish.

I was born on January 22, 1956. From a very young age I had a learning disability. It was really hard for me to learn to read, to write and to understand. I wanted to learn but my mother and father could not help me, for they had problems themselves learning to speak, read or write English. I soon learned about the library from school and other people. But when I went there, it scared me half to death. They were so big with lots of books that I could not read. I tried a few times to get help, to get a book. But when I took one home all I could do was look at the pictures. I stopped going. At that time, it didn’t seem important.

It was hard to learn English. At home, everyone spoke German or Polish, and, broken English. I grew up speaking a little German and a little Polish, no English. Having to learn English got in the way. Never did well in school, never finished high school.

When I got older, I left home and did a lot of travelling. In Amarillo, Texas, I met a man named William that everyone, including me, called Billy. We got married and soon had a baby boy that we named after his grandfathers, Clint Paul Harris. I so much wanted to settle down, go to church, learn to read for my boy so he would not have the problems I had growing up. But things did not work out. My boy was taken from me. I started travelling.

One day in one of my travels, I came upon a bible, kept it with me, but that’s all.

One day I took out the bible, a King James version, at the kitchen table. I stared at it for a long while, tried to read it. I could not. I prayed a heart-felt prayer to the Lord asking him to teach me to read his word. He did just that.

It took awhile, but I learned. Once I learned to read the bible my eyes were opened to other books. Now I could understand them, how important they were to me and my life.

I travelled again, but now I had a bible I could read. I moved to Springfield, MO., got an apartment and found a church. I also found a library that I went to once in awhile. That was a beginning. I took one book at a time and read it. I stayed in Springfield for four years. The city was too big. I’m not much for big city’s even though I was born in one.

Learning to read gave me a chance to learn the driver’s book and I got a car. I drove away from Springfield in a cheap car and I drove it till I could drive it no more. That is how I came to Jamestown. My car gave out and the Lord said this is it, you can’t go any further. I have made my home here for seventeen years.

I am not able to drive anymore. In the spring and summer, I take the local bus to the library. where I am offered many things that I would not have if I stayed at home.

The library has so much to offer a person, not just books. I love to read at the library and spend hours just looking at different books, but there are places in the library where you can sit and visit with others.

And, if you cannot find what you are looking from the bookshelves, they have computers that will help you find the information you are looking for. I have built a small library from the book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Library.

To top all that, they also have movies to rent for free.There is so much you can learn for free in the library that no one else can give you or eve offer you.

One thing I forgot to say. I found an Australian Shepherd in 2013. From the books at the library I learned to train my dog and get him certified as a Service Dog. Blue has been part of family for four years now.

Just go to the library in your town and ask those nice men and women to help you.
I am sure they would be glad to show you around.


Library, Library Story

A Library Story: Mrs. Smith, Memories of the Alfred Dickey Free Library

   Mary Jo (DeMersseman) Langhorne

Mary Jo is a 1964 graduate of Jamestown High School. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa with her husband John. She enjoyed a long career as a librarian in the Iowa City Schools and as an adjunct professor in the school of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Iowa. She still likes to read and travel. She and John travel to London to visit with daughter Jyl, her English husband, and two teenage grandsons.

A librarian at the Alfred Dickey Free Library, whom I knew only as Mrs. Smith, made a profound difference in my young life. I discovered reading at an early age, likely because my parents enjoyed reading to me. One of my best memories is of my dad reading Little Black Sambo to me, with great enthusiasm and humor. While that book is considered somewhat politically incorrect today, I believe my dad thought only that it was a book about a young boy who outsmarts the opposition because he loves pancakes. My dad loved pancakes, too.

While my parents bought books for me as they were able, that was not so easy to do in the Jamestown of the time. No Amazon, you see!! So I was thrilled to discover the library after we moved to Jamestown in 1955 when I was nine years old.

Designed by a student of Louis Sullivan (something I’ve discovered only recently), the building has a beautiful Prairie-style appearance, with the two-level features common to many libraries of the time: children’s room, offices and technical services on the lower level, and the adult collection and reading room above. And so, for a time my library experience consisted of turning to the left upon entering the library and descending the stairs to the children’s room. Children were not allowed upstairs until the age of 12 or 14 And, at the time, children’s book collections were very limited. I quickly read my way through the books that interested me on the lower level.

Enter Mrs Smith. One day, I marshaled my courage and ascended the steps to stand before the imposing oak desk in the center of the upstairs portion of the library. And there, behind that massive desk, sat a petit woman with a lovely smile—Mrs. Smith. After a nervous question or two on my part, she made it clear that I was very welcome to read the ”upstairs books”—the adult collection. And there a whole new world opened to me—Austen, Alcott, the Brontes, Dickens, DuMaurier and controversial “new” authors like Steinbeck and Pearl Buck. I could read anything I wanted, and Mrs Smith and her colleagues had selected a fine collection for the Jamestown library. Mrs Smith was always willing to help me find “the next book.” I read so much, and I don’t remember my choices ever being questioned at the checkout desk.

Eventually I became a librarian, too. I cannot say that Mrs. Smith was directly responsible, but surely the love of reading and libraries that she supported played a role. Some of Mrs. Smith’s family still live in Jamestown and should be very pleased at the role she played in my life and surely that of many other Jamestown residents.

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”
― Albert Einstein

“Your library is your paradise.”
― Erasmus

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”
― Walter Cronkite

“Librarians are the coolest people out there doing the hardest job out there on the frontlines. And every time I get to encounter or work with librarians, I’m always impressed by their sheer awesomeness.”
― Neil Gaiman

“(Public) libraries should be open to all—except the censor.
― John F. Kennedy

“Libraries raised me.”
― Ray Bradbury




Library Story

A Library Story: Libraries and Teachers


Joan Arndt

Joan Arndt, a dedicated bibliomaniac, knew from an early age that her calling was to be a “library lady.” She pursued her career for 40 years in the Roseville Public Schools, sharing books and projects with students and staff. Joan also shared her enthusiasm and love of reading with countless graduate students at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN

One of my favorite memories is when I signed up for my first library card. I was so excited. Imagine that — I could check out a few books for a whole week. The only problem was that I always finished all the books I checked out (usually the limit was three) by the end of the first day. Back to the library we would go — my mother with me in hand.

Eventually I was able to make the long walk down the Third Street hill on my own and visit the library. The staff soon learned that I would not be content with only a few books. They made an exception to the rule. I could check out as many as I could carry — that was heaven! I read all the books in the children’s section of the Stillwater Public Library by the end of fourth grade. Now my mother had to check out books for me in the young adult and adult section. She knew if I did not have reading material I would not be a happy camper. Again, the library staff soon learned that I could be trusted and no longer did I need to check out books on my mother’s card. I breezed through book after book after book. I was sure that I would finally finish everything in the collection (and I nearly did!).

I decided to be a book lady back when I was three or so (as the family legend goes). I learned to read at a very young age by constantly asking what the billboards said as we drove along the roads. The Burma Shave signs were also one of my early teachers! I decided to share my books by having my own library lending project. I made pockets and cards and had the neighborhood children sign them out. I found out that my circulation system did not always work. These readers loved to check out books, but not to return them (the bane of a librarian’s existence!)

I now have a grandniece – an adorable little girl who already loves books at the tender age of almost two. Her favorites change from Elizabeth and Larry to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie! She is already pretending to read – I am so thrilled that she always has the book in the correct position as she “reads” each page!

A highlight when I was in New York City for a Chinese wedding reception recently was to actually visit the New York Public Library main branch. It was fun to check out the children’s collection and imagine myself sitting there and reading to my heart’s content.

When I was in Rome, I had the privilege of actually doing research in The Vatican Library. Imagine being able to touch books that had been published in the 1400’s. I even had an opportunity to look at Henry the VIII’s love letters to Anne. He may have been a monarch and ruled a country, but his writing skills were sadly lacking.

I still am a confirmed bibliomaniac – I find that I must read every day. If I cannot find anything suitable to read, I have always said I would read the ingredients on a box of cereal.

I forever am grateful to my parents who instilled in me the love of reading. My mother used to say, “Joan, go outside and get some fresh air.” Of course, I would go outside, but with a book in hand. She knew that she had launched a reader!

My day is not complete without some reading – I read to learn, to escape, to enter new historical periods, new worlds and to experience new characters. To me reading is like breathing – an essential and necessary part of my day!