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A Story of Books

By Staff | Jun 1, 2016

On a Friday morning a few weeks back, New Martinsville Public Library celebrated its 70th year as being part of our community. The morning sky was a soft blue with white wispy clouds that greeted the group of citizens who came to be part of the simple ceremony. It was a perfect morning to remember and honor an important part of the town, since it first opened its doors in 1946.

In 1945, the Women’s Civic League began working on a plan to establish a library for the local citizens. First the group needed to gather information and organize themselves. With an idea and a plan they went before the city council and asked for their blessings with the project. They not only needed their blessings, they also needed financial help for the library. The league also would need someone to organize the books and operate the library on a daily basis. Organization, location, money and purchase books; no small order, but the Civic League rolled up their sleeves and began the process.

Soon after the meeting with the city council, the first library commission was formed. T.W. Heiskell was the commission’s first president. Mrs. Earl Wolf was the first secretary and Ethel Rothlisberger became the first treasurer. The five member commission was completed with C.D. Snodgrass and Marjorie Harbert.

Over the course of the next few months, a location was found on North Main Street for the new library. The rent for the one room, was $20.00 a month. Next, the Civic League began fund raising with a lot of hard work. Their efforts paid off, and $3000 was raised to kick start the library. The town’s city council helped out with an additional $75.00. With a monthly operating budget covering rent and a salary of $35 for the new librarian, they began buying books. Mrs. Edna Thomas was the first head librarian.

Our library celebrated its 70th birthday, but the world’s first library was created 4,500 years ago. Since then, libraries have played an important part in the development of civilization. They preserved mankind’s knowledge for future generations. Before they began recording information, it was a time known as prehistory. It was not until they began preserving information that history, as we know it, began. When scholars study prehistory, they theorize how civilization must have worked. But, when man began preserving information at first on clay tablets, did we begin to know what man believed and thought of the world he lived in?

Civilizations knowledge and the words of the great writers have been preserved because libraries were there to protect and preserve that knowledge. Today, some believe future libraries will become museums where people visit to see shelves of musty old books.

Others believe the future of libraries is bright as they change to accommodate a world of e-books and cloud technology. For me, I can only imagine that the words of Melville, Shakespeare and Jackie Collins are more enjoyable when held in the reader’s hands. In the quiet protection from the busy outside world, I hope future generations can turn the pages as they read their printed words.

From its early beginnings in a single room that cost $20.00 a month for rent, our library has continued to grow and serve our community for seven decades with unwavering dedication. Countless volumes of books have been touched by visitors to the New Martinsville Library over those years. Today, the library has nearly 36,000 books on its shelves. And there are nearly 3,800 patrons who carry library cards.

Seventy years ago a group of dedicated citizens decided they wanted to give something to our community. They gave us history and literature and the preserved words of the world’s gifted writers. Perhaps one of those early founders had read the words of, Elwyn Brooks White, “A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”

Did you ever wonder why they ask you to be quiet in a library? Some will say it is because people are trying to read and do not want to be disturbed. Others believe it is a place where you can go and be alone with your thoughts while reading. Both of those reasons are correct. I think, as did Mr. White, that writers of books are waiting to tell you a story of an adventure or lost love hidden in the pages. A book is a piece of the person who wrote it, even after they are long gone. Writers weave into their story bits and pieces of places and people they have known in their lives. Through their written words those bits and pieces lives on.

The New Martinsville Library has since its beginning, served thousands of people with books that have filled time in their lives. The library’s books have brought both smiles and tears for 70 years to our community. Visit your library and see if you can find your next adventure as you read Through the Lens.