Monday, December 27, 2010

Erosion of Our Collective Historical Consciousness

In the Sunday edition of The Indianapolis Star (Dec. 26, 2010), at the bottom of page A1, reporter Will Higgins wrote about the imminent transfer of the Ernie Pyle historic site in Pyle's hometown (Dana, Indiana), from the Indiana Natural Resources Commission to a private group devoted to the preservation of Pyle's historical contributions. Dana is a tiny town in remote Western Indiana--a few miles further west, and it would be in Illinois. But it epitomizes the archetypical Hoosier agricultural community, with its historically important homegrown ethos of hardworking, honest citizens that made Indiana the heartland of American family values.

From Dana arose Indiana's most famous journalist, Ernie Pyle, whose writing resonates as profoundly today as it did during World War II. Take any of Pyle's wartime books, and you will learn volumes about the real people who fought against fascism and tyranny. Pyle's hometown is intensely proud of his historical significance, but there are fewer residents there to preserve this history than in years long past, when townsfolk who knew Pyle still lived. Nonetheless, an enthusiastic group of Dana citizens is undertaking the arduous task of raising private funds to preserve the Pyle historic site.

This is the modern theme in historical preservation. Governments are relinquishing their roles as the keepers of the public memory. History is poor political capital--most people don't seem to care about history and know pitifully little about it--and so politicians expend little, if any, efforts to finance its preservation. This has been especially true during the tough economic struggles the nation currently faces in its "Great Recession." It requires more backbone than most politicians could muster to commit public revenues to ensure that future generations will have important historic sites to visit and personally experience.

So government-directed historic sites such as the Ernie Pyle museum are left to private parties who must somehow finance their operation through charitable contributions. Raising money for history, like the arts, is like Sisyphus forever condemned to roll the rock uphill. People will unthinkingly drop $10 or $20 on the statistically improbable (impossible, for all intents and purposes) chance of winning the state lottery but would flatly refuse to contribute even a dollar to help preserve a historic artifact or locale. But citizens must do it, if it is to be done at all, because governments will shirk the duty.

Why should we care? What difference does history make? It's over and done with, so why bother preserving it? If you think that way, let me set fire right now to all of your family photographs, personal letters, or keepsakes. History is not something outside or apart from the people living it. History is us--our ancestors, you and me, and our descendants--and we must protect it if any of us is to learn and understand what our culture has been (and is becoming), as well as how our own life's experiences are integrated into the fabric of time. Each of our lives has had significance because we recognize our place in the historical texture of our hometowns and communities. Sites devoted to famous persons, such as Ernie Pyle, remind us that he was like us, an ordinary American, who grew up in a farmhouse similar to those that some of us live in today. That history reminds us who we have been, who we are, and who we will become. If that history is lost through neglect, then we are lost, and our lives become meaningless in the great cosmic scheme.

Of course, I have a professional stake in historical preservation. People call me the town historian of Mooresville, Indiana, a title which is only partially accurate at best, since I am neither a native nor an expert. I can name a half-dozen persons off the top of my head whose local (or county) historical knowledge far exceeds mine, the best of which is Wanda Potts, the true town historian (and one of my predecessors at Mooresville Public Library, the Indiana Room Librarian from 1966-2002). But my job (as the current keeper of the flame) is the preservation and retrieval of local historical and genealogical information, and so I appreciate daily the value history plays in the lives of my patrons. What a terrible shame if our little library's local history & genealogy collection (roughly 5000 books, periodicals, microforms, vertical files, and realia) vanished because politicians feared adverse taxpayer reaction to public expenditure to safeguard it. Now multiply that ten thousand-fold, and consider the consequences when more governmentally funded historic sites, libraries, and archives are closed or sold off to private collectors (or worse), or that must be maintained by generous, diligent, interested private citizens at their own (or private contributors') expense, or that are closed, forgotten, and left to decay.

Once that history has gone down the drain, it is lost. Period. Think about your family photographs and memorabilia I mentioned before. How would you feel if you lost them in a flood (as I did) or a fire (as my grandmother did) or due to taxpayer apathy (as the citizens of Indiana and elsewhere are experiencing with closure of public historic sites)? Our collective history is simply bigger piles of personal family snapshots, letters, documents, and artifacts. I don't want to lose any of them. I hope you don't, either, and will see the value in publicly subsidizing their protection.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New MPL Blog! Cat's Eye View, by Cauli Le Chat

Mooresville Public Library (Mooresville, Indiana) has a new blog! Feline roving reporter Cauli Le Chat is pounding the four-legged beat to deliver the latest library news of interest to cats (and humans). Many libraries have resident cats--a good thing, by any acceptable standard--but MPL is among the vanguard with its star reporter, whose "nose for news" can sniff out the facts and keep readers abreast of current events at the library.

Check out Cat's Eye View (at Mooresville Public Library) at

Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter, Four-Legged News Beat
(a.k.a. "Kit Cauliflower," former boxer, lightweight feline division)

[Pssst! Don't touch the ear. She still has a mean right hook.]

Monday, December 13, 2010

New to Evergreen Indiana Catalog: Book Trailer Hyperlinks

The Evergreen Indiana (E.I.) Cataloging Committee recently approved the inclusion of book trailer hyperlinks in consortium catalog records. Patrons (and library staff) who search for books in the E.I. online catalog will see a section of the item record called "online resources," which, for designated listings, will include book trailer hyperlinks.

Here is an example. Suppose you are looking for a copy of the classic novel Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. You find this record in your library's OPAC (online E.I. catalog) (click image to enlarge):

Clicking the book trailer hyperlink in the E.I. catalog record (see red box in graphic above) would play the book trailer attached to this record, which would look like the video below:

Book trailers are videos describing a particular book. They are comparable to movie trailers describing coming attractions in movie theaters. By including book trailer hyperlinks in the E.I. catalog, persons interested in a certain book may watch, if available, a book trailer providing more information about the book's plot or themes.

Look for book trailer hyperlinks in the "online resources" section of E.I. catalog records.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Imperceptible: Book Debut & Signing, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 (2-4 pm) at MPL

Mooresville (Indiana) High School teacher Sharon Eickhoff and her students from the Class of 2012 will be at Mooresville Public Library on Thursday, December 9, 2010, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. for the book signing and debut of their latest publication, Imperceptible, which will be available for sale at the MPL Circulation Desk. (See the above graphic, prepared by Susan Haynes, Community Relations Coordinator, Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation.) Click on the image to view a larger version (I think).

This event affords an opportunity to meet with the authors of this fine book, including Ms. Eickhoff, who supervised and directed the venture. We hope you are able to attend.

In case you missed our earlier blog, we reprise our book trailer featuring Imperceptible.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Plainfield-Guilford Twp. Public Library (Indiana): 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten Grant Proposal

Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library (Plainfield, Indiana) is vying for $50,000 in Pepsi grants to promote early childhood literacy. Their proposal is called "One Thousand Books Before Kindergarten" and will be designed to encourage parents to read 1,000 books (or more) to their preschool children during their first five years (or so). Plainfield Library has produced an excellent video describing the program:

You are invited to support Plainfield Library's proposed program by voting through Facebook (or other online mechanisms). Visit this web site for more details.

North Webster (Indiana) Community Public Library: 2010 Cemetery Walk Videos (Update)

North Webster (Indiana) Community Public Library has included its 2010 Cemetery Walk videos on its Indiana Room web pages. Check out these highly innovative and respectful tributes to folks from their community who have become part of the local historical fabric.

This creative use of live video and personations brings local history truly alive.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Music Soundtrack for MPL Book Trailer #83 (Imperceptible) by 2006 MHS Graduate Danny Buckley

If you have read our earlier blogs, you might have seen our book trailer for Imperceptible, a book written by students in the Class of 2012 at Mooresville High School (Mooresville, Indiana). The soundtrack to this video was composed by Daniel E. Buckley, a 2006 MHS graduate (and a 2010 graduate of Millikin University, in Decatur, Illinois). Danny was a four-year participant in MHS choirs and completed the AP Music Theory course taught by Jason Damron. These experiences, combined with his interest in guitar, redirected Danny's educational objectives. He earned a B.A. in music business and was a four-year classical guitar ensemble performer. He plans to earn a master's degree in music composition.

For the past year, Danny has served as the volunteer composer for Mooresville Public Library. He has written original musical compositions used in all but two of MPL's YouTube videos ( For more information about his work, as well as MP3 samples of his original compositions, please visit his website at

Imperceptible, by MHS Class of 2012, For Sale at MPL

As mentioned in our previous blog, the Mooresville (Indiana) High School Class of 2012, under the direction of MHS teacher Sharon Eickhoff, wrote the book Imperceptible (Lexington, Ky. : CreateSpace, 2010) (ISBN 9781439271674), which will be available to purchase at the Circulation Desk of Mooresville Public Library (Mooresville, Indiana) beginning Thursday, December 9, 2010, with proceeds going to the Friends of the Library (Indiana Room Fund). The book is also available for purchase from

To watch our book trailer for Imperceptible, check out our earlier blog at

Imperceptible, by the Class of 2012, Mooresville (Indiana) High School

Imperceptible is the latest writing project spearheaded by Sharon Eickhoff, honors English teacher at Mooresville High School (Mooresville, Indiana). Ms. Eickhoff directed students from the MHS Class of 2012 to uncover people, places, or events that might be overlooked in the race through our daily lives. Students explored these stories waiting to be told, and they tell them concisely and effectively. These historical and contemporary snapshots of life in Mooresville, Indiana and surrounding communities reveal much about the fullness of living here. Beneath the dust of time and the rush to earn our daily bread, these stories demonstrate the character that defines small town America. Good, decent, hardworking people have interesting tales to tell, if we but listen. What may be imperceptible to those who hurry past provide rich textures to others who truly see. Our book trailer below reflects this theme:

Congratulations to Ms. Eickhoff and her students from the MHS Class of 2012 who have researched and written a fine contribution to the local history, folklore, and observation of contemporary human experience in this 186-year-old town.