Monday, April 30, 2012

A Lifetime of Community Service

“I am writing this with mixed emotions.  This is something I feel I should do because I feel it is for the best interest of the library—my second home for the past 27 years.”  So began MPL Director Bonita Marley’s retirement letter to the MPL Board of Trustees, dated September 6, 1983.

“With your permission, I would like to remain [as director] until March 1st, 1984 to be able to have things in the best order possible for my successor and to make out the annual report for 1983, which will be done in February [1984].”  Bonita would not have left the Library in the lurch; she made every effort to assure a smooth transition to the next director.

“No doubt, in the near future, you may be able to go into a building program and into more automated procedures in carrying out the business of the library and adding to its adaptability and efficiency.”  Bonita knew that library technologies were changing, and she felt that a new, younger director, schooled in the latest computer systems, would be an asset to her growing community’s informational needs.

“I am more than grateful for the opportunity that was given me to start here as clerk in 1957 and then be able to advance to librarian.  I have had the most wonderful cooperation and support from all trustees from the day I began and including my friends of the present board.”

“[Leaving MPL] is not easy to do, but I feel it is best, for I always want the very best for the library.”

And so Bonita Marley retired as MPL Director and Librarian in April, 1984.  She had turned age 78 on February 11.  Her final librarian’s report to the Library Board was entered into the minutes on April 2, 1984.  On April 6, 1984, the Board hired her successor, librarian Sharon Beatrice, who was MPL Director from that time until 1987, when she changed careers to pursue other service-oriented work with Native Americans in Arizona.

As sometimes happens when examining the historical record, even in a small town like Mooresville, the Library has no photograph of Ms. Beatrice, except for a fuzzy black-and-white photocopy of a newspaper clipping from the Mooresville Times that would not reproduce well digitally.  Apparently, nobody thought to take a snapshot of the new library director for our vertical files.  When you’re living history at the moment, you don’t always think of such things.

Ms Beatrice left the Library in 1987, the year construction began on a new building.  Subsequent (and current) MPL Director Diane Huerkamp (2004-present) attempted on several occasions to obtain a photograph from Ms. Beatrice, but none has ever been received.  So there hangs an empty director’s plaque on the directors’ wall at the north end of the Great Hall at the Library.

Although Mrs. Marley retired in 1984, she remained an active volunteer at the Library and used her lifetime of community service contacts (friendships, really) in Mooresville to assist in the planning and construction of a new building at the Library’s current location of 220 West Harrison Street.  That structure, known commonly as the “1988 Library,” since 2006 has been the MPL Youth Services Department, to which was constructed an addition in 2005-2006, which included the Bonita C. Marley Library Community Room.

It would be impossible to exaggerate Bonita Marley’s significance to her Library and her community.  We would not enjoy the Library we have today had it not been for her tireless dedication.  How fortunate we would all be if we, too, could provide a lifetime of public service to our hometowns.

Funding & Service Solutions For All (Mid-1980s)

In the summer of 1983, the MPL Board of Trustees notified the Brown Township Trustee that, for 1984, the Library would be charging the township $20,000 in its annual agreement to provide library services to Brown Twp. residents.  This was a substantial cost increase over 1983, but it was essential if the Library were to meet its operating expenses.  Based upon its larger service population, when compared with the proportion of total patrons served by the Library at the time, township residents should have been paying 41 percent of MPL’s anticipated 1984 budget, or $33,200 per year, instead of the 24 percent represented by the $20,000 price tag.

The Brown Township Trustee’s response was swift and, frankly, irritated.  The township had paid $12,500 in 1983 for Library services (balking at the requested $15,000 under the agreement), and $20,000 would have been a 62.5 percent price hike.  Since the State had frozen township contractual spending increases for 1984 to 4.5 percent over the previous year, the Library service price jump was seen as outrageously expensive.

In short, the Brown Township Trustee was content to discontinue the contractual arrangement and leave township residents without Library services for the first time in over 70 years.

But let’s not unduly paint the Brown Township Trustee as the bad guy in this scenario.  Township trustees, under state law at the time, were constrained by the 4.5 percent ceiling.  Twenty thousand dollars was just too far beyond that limit, and so the reaction was not unreasonable.

The difficulty lay in how township residents were paying for Library services in the early 1980s.  An annual flat fee generated considerably less revenue for the Library than a proportional allocation of property tax based upon the township’s property values and the quantity of patrons served. Using tax dollars instead of a flat fee would significantly enhance the Library’s financial base without unduly burdening township or town taxpayers.  The cost would be spread amongst a much larger total tax base, thereby reducing the individual impact on each landowner, and much more money would be generated to run the Library.  It would mean considerably improved Library services for both town and township citizens.

The solution, then, was simple:  Redefine the Library’s taxing district to include both Mooresville and Brown Township.  (In the early 1980s, only the Town of Mooresville fell within the Library taxing district.)  However, this modification, in practice, was anything but straightforward.  Much political acrimony arose during the arguments between town and township governments, whose respective legal representatives exchanged a flurry of adversarial correspondence.  Officials were initially entrenched in their respective positions.  Similarly, public reaction became emotionally charged and polarized.  The local political tacticians wrangled for two years until, in the summer of 1985, the Library taxing districts of Mooresville and Brown Township were merged into a single unit.  The MPL Board of Trustees adopted the merger resolution on June 3, 1985.

The consequence of the Library taxing district unification was enormous.  Both Mooresville and Brown Township residents received continued, high-quality Library services, to which they had been accustomed for nearly three-quarters of a century.  Through direct property tax allocation, both town and township residents benefited from a better financed Library.  This ultimately enabled construction (in 1987-1988) of a larger facility containing a vastly enhanced array of bibliographical resources at the public’s fingertips.

As the area population and businesses expanded through the 1980s into the 1990s, there would now be a Library equipped to satisfy the growing community’s greater informational and educational needs.  The taxing district merger, coupled with sound financial management by the MPL Board of Trustees and Director, made this a reality.

Throughout mid-1985 and 1986, the Library Board and Director conducted feasibility studies to determine if a new building could be constructed without undue burden to taxpayers through bonding and, equally as important, without new taxes.  Solid investment strategies from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s had garnered substantial fiscal rewards for MPL.   This sufficiently bolstered the Library’s available monetary resources, along with the additional tax revenues from the unified district, to underwrite a major construction project.

Bottom line:  The money for a new Library building would be available, and, finally, after nearly a decade, MPL could emerge from its grossly overcrowded Carnegie structure to a facility with room for future growth.  We’ll get to that story soon, but, for next time, we must sadly close a chapter in the Library’s century of public service:  the end of the Bonita Marley era.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Library Growth Meets Budget Crunch (1975-1983)

During the mid-1970s, the Library began experiencing restricted space for additional materials, but MPL Staff and its Board of Trustees demonstrated shrewd stewardship in developing innovative and imaginative solutions.  For instance, several office partitions were removed, and shelving was redistributed or added in available areas.  This created more of an “open-air” workflow environment that immersed staff in “traffic areas,” thereby improving opportunities for staff to interact with and assist patrons.

Despite the struggle for sufficient space, Library services continued to reach larger populations.  In March, 1976, MPL was approached by Morgan County Public Library to discuss the possibility of MPL directly serving patrons living in the northern townships of Morgan County, Indiana.  MPL also introduced new programs.  For instance, in June 1976 the Library Board requested that the director investigate purchase of a 16-mm motion picture projector.  By September 1976, movies were being shown to the public free-of-charge in the Library’s Pioneer Room (basement).  The first movie shown, Circus Town (1949), attracted 72 attendees on Thursday, September 30, 1976.

By 1976, MPL collections had reached 19,626 volumes, but new purchases and donations were undertaken at a steady pace.  By 1978, space restrictions compelled the Library Board and Staff to consider facility expansion.  First, the Board sought public input.  In a patron survey underwritten by the Mooresville Jaycees, the Library asked residents of Mooresville and Brown Township, “Do you believe the Mooresville Public Library needs to provide additional services?  (Yes) (No)  If yes, please list what services [should be provided].”  This public feedback was critical to evaluating the Library’s future growth, as well as facility and resource management.

By November 6, 1978, the Library Board passed a resolution to fund a feasibility study to determine which building renovations, including enlarging the structure, should be undertaken by the most affordable means.  Recommendations were reviewed in June, 1979, and action plans were prepared.

Much of the momentum toward construction of a building addition ground to an abrupt halt in 1979, as funding cutbacks from state and local governmental sources crimped the Library’s operations.  Fortunately, the Library Board had begun in previous years (as early as 1975-1976) to aggressively invest Library revenues into safe, short-term, high-interest yielding certificates of deposit.  The consequential burgeoning of Library bank accounts assured that loss of tax dollars did not undermine efficient delivery of essential Library services.

Still, the tax revenue crunch of 1979-1980 delayed building improvement projects and planning beyond scheduled renovations and restorations to existing facilities.  Certain exterior projects were placed on indefinite hold, which prompted interested citizens, such as county historian Becky Hardin, to purchase trees to plant in front of the Library at her own expense.  Such was the dedication of many townspeople in support of their Library.

Morgan County Historian Becky Hardin (left)
is honored for her tree-planting campaign
around the MPL Carnegie Library
(September 17, 1981)

Surprisingly, the Library continued to find ways to improve patron services.  In the early 1980s, MPL purchased microfilm and microfiche reading machines.  These required significant expenditures, but the equipment satisfied a long-standing need to enable patrons to view newspapers and historical documents photographed onto microfilm and microfiche by the State Archives.  As a space-saving and content-archiving measure, it was a bold, but highly effective and efficient, decision.

The early 1980s saw further slashes in public funding, which severely constrained Library budgets.  The problem was allocation of tax revenues and the rising cost of Library services and resources.  Throughout the 1970s, the Brown Township Trustee paid a fixed sum to MPL so that township residents could use the Library.  This was a fixed stipend; general tax revenues came only from the Town of Mooresville.  As Library costs mounted and local tax dollars declined, it became exceedingly expensive for MPL to serve both residents of Mooresville and Brown Township.  Thus, in 1983, the Library Board requested that the Brown Township Trustee pay a higher annual fee for Library use privileges.  Unfortunately, this caused friction between town and township officials and residents.  How these difficulties were overcome will be our focus next time.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

1960s & 1970s Through the Decades Displays

The Library's centennial celebration continues with Through the Decades displays covering the 1960s and 1970s.  What was happening at MPL, in Mooresville, and around the country at the time?  If you lived way back then, you probably remember some exciting times.

Click the images to enlarge.  You might wish to adjust your web browser to magnify further, if your eyesight's as bad as mine.

 1970s Dress & Hat

 1940s Dress and Hat

Examples of Ladies Fashions

Of course, these are just a few examples of women's fashions through the decades of the 20th century.  We would have literally filled the Library with all the clothing variations during the past 100 years, but that would have left precious little room for anything else. We have several books available in the Library's collections that showcase 20th century fashions (and beyond).  Some of these books are also on display and may be checked out at the Library, if you have an Evergreen Indiana library card.

Take a look at our displays during your next visit to the Library.  Compare what you remember (if you lived through the time periods) with our historical sampling on the display placards.  Remember--it's only a sample tray of historical details for you to snack upon.  The full historical menu, so to speak, has many more bits of information and experience, both from the written and oral historical records and from our (and other's) memories.  We hope these tidbits are "seasoned and prepared to taste," to use the cookbook analogy.

I'd bring to the Library some of my authentic 1960s and 1970s clothes still hanging in my closet at home, but nobody wants to relive that fashion horror--least of all me.  If you lived back then, you know what I mean.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Minutiae in MPL Board Minutes Means a Historical Feast

We continue perusing the MPL Board of Trustees meeting minutes through the  mid-1970s to see what historical gems we might discover.

Mildred Forbes, MPL Board Secretary during the time in question, reported (July 1, 1974) that the Library’s summer story times were to be linked to the Old Settlers Picnic/Festival, and local historical bus tours were slated.  These tours were particularly popular and informative, given that Mooresville’s Historian, Wanda Potts, furnished a rich, lively narrative of local history and lore.  (Wanda was MPL Assistant Director and Indiana Room Librarian.)  Community artist and teacher Helen Cook provided watercolor painting classes, and craft classes began on July 5.  Summer reading ended in August, as it usually does still.

Take a look at the MPL online calendar, or click the various hyperlinks in this (and other) paragraphs, to see if you recognize any of the modern counterparts to these popular programs.  Since 2006 the Library has conducted downtown walking and bus driving tours of historic Mooresville sites.  Grace Cole teaches watercolor painting classes now, and Janet Buckley offers basket-weaving classes.  MPL Early Literacy Specialist Jaymi Edwards offers reading programs to preschoolers.  The Library has a booth annually at Old Settlers.  Summer reading remains huge at MPL, as it is at most public libraries.  (See last year's blog posting about the Library's summer reading launch party.)

It was at this same Board meeting (July 1, 1974) that the Library decided, as a public taxing unit, it was subject to the federal minimum wage laws, and, accordingly, the pay scales of the Library’s teenage pages were raised to $1.90/hour as a starting base.  Similarly, Myrtle Keller’s salary was increased to $150/month to comply with minimum wage requirements.  Myrtle worked four days per week as Head of Circulation.

In a previous blog posting, we examined the Library’s early conversations about facility expansion.  A careful reading of the Board minutes (January 6, 1975) disclosed that “discussion on [a] new addition to the Library was tabled until a later meeting" (emphasis added).  This is the earliest record in the Board minutes indicating that new construction was being considered.  Perhaps anticipating the need for fundraising and financial planning for a new addition (or even an entirely new building), the Library created its Board of Finance (January 20, 1975) pursuant to Indiana Acts of 1937.

By early 1975, newspaper storage had outgrown available space, and temporary solutions were introduced until more shelving could be secured.  A February 1978 photo from the Mooresville Times showed that shelf space scarcity was a continuing challenge to Library staff.  Additional shelving throughout the Library was ordered in September 1975, which eased shelf overcrowding for serials and monographs (i.e., magazines and books).  This afforded some breathing space (about three years’ worth) for Library collections.  To save money during 1975, the Library secured new books through gifts twice as often as it purchased them.  It was a donation campaign that garnered huge support from many town residents.

Library shelf space becomes a scarcity by February, 1978,
despite multiple augmentations of shelving

The Board minutes throughout the past century are filled with basic wear-and-tear expenditures—replacing furnaces and other fixtures, worn-out furniture, and structural components—which makes for less than riveting reading.  Still, such minutiae is significant to understanding the Library’s daily operations and conditions.

The 1980s are looming in the Library’s history, at least as far as this blog is concerned, but there are still many fascinating facts to be gleaned from the late 1970s Board minutes.  We’ll consider more of these next time.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Solid Returns For Your Tax Investment (Then & Now)

The minutes of MPL Board of Trustees meetings provide a wealth of information about month-to-month issues facing the Library over the past century.  These meetings are open to the public, and, accordingly, the minutes are public records.  So we can snoop around a bit and discover some interesting details about the Library’s history.

Consider an entry from January 4, 1974.  Librarian and MPL Director Bonita Marley gave the Board a year-end report for 1973, and the Board voted on salary schedules for the Library staff.  These were:

  • Bonita Marley:                   $525/month
  • Wanda Potts:                      $395/month
  • Myrtle Keller:                     $145/month
  • Children’s Librarian:          $1.60/hour
  • Pages:                                 85 cents to $1 per hour, depending upon experience
  • Custodian:                          $100/month

Wanda, you may recall, was Assistant Director/Indiana Room Librarian.  Myrtle was Head of Circulation.  There was a separate youth services librarian, four teenaged pages, and a custodian.

What were salaries for 1975?

  • Bonita Marley:                     $6,900/year
  • Wanda Potts:                        $5,160/year
  • Myrtle Keller:                        $1,980/year
  • Mattie Lundy:                        $1,257.80/year
  • Cindy Breedlove:                  $2.10/hour
  • Cindy Johnson:                     $2/hour
  • Bonnie Hamilton:                  $2/hour
  • Debby Kouns:                       $2/hour
  • Andrea Tucker:                     $2/hour

Mattie was the custodian.  Cindy Breedlove was the “assistant children’s director,” and Cindy J., Bonnie, Debby and Andrea were pages (Mooresville High School students).

Nobody could accuse library employees of getting rich.

You may know some of these folks, as several still live in Indiana, and many have family still living in Morgan County or vicinity.  Each was hard-working, dedicated to the Library and its patrons, and committed to providing quality public service.  When one considers how little they earned, even for the mid-1970s, their dedication leaps off the page (or screen, since this blog is on the Internet).

Salaries have risen since those days over 35 years ago, but they remain considerably beneath what similarly skilled workers command in the private sector (or in federal or even some state or local governmental positions).  That means Library staff are making sacrifices in earning potential, the impact of which is clearly felt at home among their families.  Consider the value and quality of library employees’ services to the public in the taxing district.  Citizens of Mooresville and Brown Township have long received an excellent return for their tax dollars allocated to MPL.  Remember, too, that the Library’s legions of volunteers receive no compensation for their many contributions.  That’s another, even greater value for tax dollars invested in the Library.

1940s & 1950s Through the Decades Displays at MPL

Continuing the Library's centennial celebration, we now have our 1940s & 1950s Through the Decades displays near the front entrance.  Discover what was happening at the Library, in Mooresville, Indiana, and around the U.S.A. during a 20-year span that radically altered the shape of the American landscape.  Click images to enlarge.

We also have clothing displays for the 1950s and 1960s.

1950s Dress & Hat

1960s Zipper Dress

Many Thanks to Our Sponsors

Friday, April 20, 2012

Addendum to 1920s-1930s Centennial Display

We have some additional items for the Library's 1920s-1930s Through the Decades centennial display.  Click images to enlarge.

 1930s Dress

 Dress (circa 1900)

Circa 1900 Photo of Virginia Jensen's
Great-Grandmother Who Made & Wore This Dress

This four-sided display highlights some of the interesting facts and images throughout the Library's century of public service.

Watch for more displays to appear at the Library soon.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Centennial History Displays at MPL

The first of five Through the Decades centennial history displays celebrating the 100th anniversary of MPL is now available for your perusal at the Library.  You'll see it as you come through the front entrance.  Click each image to enlarge.

The displays recount what was happening at the Library, and in America generally, during the decades indicated.  The first display covers the 1920s-1930s.  Subsequent decades will soon follow.

The dress is authentic period.  It was made circa 1900 by the great-grandmother (GGM) of MPL Head of Circulation, Virginia Jensen.  We will be adding a photograph of Virginia's great-grandparents from about the same time.  GGM wore this dress for all her daily activities--she had one dress pattern, said Virginia--and so the dress had to be functional, durable, and practical.  It reflects the straightforward, unpretentiousness of Hoosier farm folk from the turn of the 20th century.  These were honest, hard-working, perseverant people.  You would have liked them, I'm confident.

We decided to have a little fun with the dress.  Virginia said that, as a child, she remembered the dress being among those that the family children were allowed to use for dress-up play.  We wondered how Laura James, MPL Circulation Teamster, would have looked.  (GGM, who stood approximately five feet tall, was about the same height as Laura.)  Laura is standing on one of the circular steps that you see sitting around the Library stacks.

 American Gothic Stoic Stare

 Can We Lose the Shoulders?

There!  Almost Lifelike

Thanks to Laura for being a good sport, and thanks, too, to Virginia and her GGM.

Watch for more of these displays as our anniversary celebration day approaches (Saturday, May 12, 2012).  Maybe Laura will agree to more poses.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

MPL in the 1970s: More Renovation, Reaching Out, and Tight Quarters

More renovations opened the 1970s at MPL, as massive growth in collections required reorganization of various spaces in the Library.  In 1972 the Pioneer Room in the basement was renovated to accommodate more volumes in the children's collection and update the look and feel of the "young persons' area."

The most significant service development during the 1970s, however, was the introduction of community outreach programs.  Previously, the Library had focused upon the community visiting the Carnegie building to meet its informational needs, attend programs, or conduct organizational or public meetings.  Now, MPL wanted to reach out to the community to extend Library services to those who, for whatever reasons, were not coming inside the Library.  Thus, librarians began attending offsite organizational meetings to promote its collections, programs, or other services.  Book talks continued at local schools--MPL had pioneered these in the early 1950s--and efforts were made to reach elderly or home-bound patrons who wished to read books or obtain other materials from the Library.  Librarian and MPL Director Bonita Marley wanted local residents to think of the Library not just as a place to go but also as a caring hand extended to the citizens of Mooresville and Brown Township.

Carnegie Library Bursting At the Seams (Feb. 1978)

As the 1970s waned, however, it became evident that the Library itself needed more than mere renovations and outreach services.  Collections had grown well past the Carnegie building's capacity.  The Library needed space, and lots of it--more than was available in the 1916 structure--and so the institution that had served its public so well for 66 years now needed the support of townspeople and township residents if it were going to continue its mission.

Bonita Marley (MPL Director/Librarian) and
Wanda Potts (MPL Ass't. Director/Indiana Room Librarian)
(Feb. 1978)

So began the Library's quest for a new building.  In 1978 the Library Board met with town and township officials to discuss possible future courses of action.  Then, and now, there were competing needs for local governmental tax dollars, and consequently the evaluating and planning processes took much longer than in 1912-1916, when the Carnegie building was constructed.  In fact, it took a decade of strategizing before Mooresville would see its new Library.  But the initial steps began in 1978, which eventually led to a modern facility that continues to serve the citizens of our community.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fifty Years, More or Less, in 1967

Mooresville Public Library's 50th anniversary of continuous operation could have been observed in 1966, since the town's Carnegie Library building was dedicated on January 27, 1916.  This benchmark could have been noted as early as May, 1962, because, 50 years earlier, the decision was made to fund and construct a taxpayer-supported public library.

It therefore seems strange that the Library's stewards chose May 7, 1967 as its quinquagenary (i.e., semicentennial) anniversary.  But there it is, in the Library's vertical files, and so we're stuck with the historical fact.

 MPL "More Than 50 Years" Celebratory Bookmark, issued May 7, 1967
(Click images to enlarge; use your web browser's zoom function to further magnify)

MPL "More Than 50 Years" Celebration Party
May 7, 1967

Why did Bonita Marley, MPL Librarian & Director, and the Library's Board of Trustees choose to celebrate the Library's "over 50" anniversary instead of just observing the event in January, 1966, when it would have been half a century since the Carnegie Library dedication?  No clear statements were recorded in the Board's minutes or other Library documents, so we are forced to make reasonable inferences.

Mrs. Marley and the Board were aware of the significance of May, 1912 in the Library's origin story--Bonita Conduitt had been a six-year-old child that year--and they further would have known about the steps taken between 1912 and 1915 to finance and construct the Library, as well as to maintain the temporary library collection downtown while funding and construction were ongoing.  Perhaps, then, they were including all of this history as part of their celebration in May, 1967.

There is, however, a better explanation.  Indiana celebrated its sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary in 1966, and Mrs. Marley and the Board probably did not want to compete with the many state and local observances of Hoosier statehood by adding the Library's quinquagenary to the mix, when it would have gotten lost in the shuffle of state-wide historical celebrations.  Better to wait until 1967, when Mooresville's citizens could concentrate upon the Library's important historical milestone without distraction.

A flippant suggestion has been made that the Library Board and Staff simply "forgot" the 50th anniversary in 1966 (or 1962, depending upon your starting date) and held a late party to correct the oversight.  That won't wash.  Mrs. Marley vividly remembered the Carnegie Building's construction and opening--she was one of the Library's first cardholders, of which she was rightly proud--and local history was one of her hallmarks.  She had hired Mooresville historian Wanda Potts in 1966 specifically to safeguard the community's history, and both were keenly aware of the Library's longevity.  Neither Mrs. Marley nor Mrs. Potts would have overlooked such a significant accomplishment as 50 years of public service.

MPL Librarian/Director Bonita Marley (left) with former
MPL Librarian/Director Helen Hadley Ward (right) (1967)

Librarians Bonita Marley & Myrtle Keller at the MPL Circulation Desk (1967)

The "More Than 50 Years" party was quite a social event on May 7, 1967.  Many prominent local dignitaries attended the celebration, but, much more importantly for Mrs. Marley, "regular" folks (like you and me) were there to enjoy the cake and talk about the great times Mooresville's citizens enjoyed at MPL.  Perhaps "you" reading this were actually on the guest list that day long ago.  Sadly, I wasn't, because I was in El Salvador sitting across from an active volcano at that exact time (it's a long story).  The guest list is among the artifacts included in our Indiana Room vertical files.

We celebrate these anniversaries because not many institutions, public or private, survive half (or all of) a century.  So let's apply the "horseshoe tossing" rule as far as exact dates are concerned.  The important commemoration is the Library's uninterrupted service to Mooresville and Brown Township residents, whether 50 years ago, today, or, hopefully, in another century and longer.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

You Are Welcome Here, Always

I met Mrs. Bonita Marley, MPL Director and Librarian, on a Saturday morning in June, 1978.  I was visiting my college girlfriend, a Mooresville native (who lives there still).  She wanted to show me the local library, where she had spent many pleasant childhood hours.

The Library was a fine Carnegie structure.  Such libraries were quite distinctive.  I was surprised that a town the size of Mooresville had such a sizable library.

We walked up the front stairs through the library entrance.  My girlfriend began giving me the grand tour, when an older lady approached us.  "Welcome back," she said to my girlfriend, whom she seemed to recognize.  "I see you've brought a friend," she added, turning to me.  "I'm Bonita Marley," she said.  "Welcome to our library.  May I help you find anything?"

I explained that I was from out-of-town and that my girlfriend was showing me around.  I was a  stranger to Mooresville, and I was pleasantly subsumed in the small town charm of the place.  "I'm glad you dropped by to see us," Mrs. Marley said, with such genuine warmth and kindness that I was immediately put at ease.  "I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have."

Merely reading my recounting of our conversation, 34 years after the fact, you probably won't appreciate just how pleasant, friendly, and inviting Mrs. Marley was that day.  She honestly cared that a total stranger was visiting her library, perhaps only once, which was true--I was never inside the MPL Carnegie Library again--and she wanted me to know that it was her pleasure to have me there.  You would have had to have heard her voice to know this, but it was no feigned "customer service" spiel.  She was accustomed to greeting everybody who entered the library this way.  Mrs. Marley was truly glad to see them there.

Bonita Marley, MPL Librarian & Director (1961-1984)

Mrs. Marley became MPL Director in 1961.  She began her 23-year tenure at the Library's helm by overseeing an extensive renovation of the facilities.  The front entrance, which had two stairways approaching from each side to the front doors, was changed to be a single staircase straight from the doors to the sidewalk (compare the photos below; click images to enlarge).  This was more welcoming--an architectural invitation to enter the library--which Mrs. Marley would surely have favored.  A new heating and air conditioning system was installed, and the basement kitchen was enlarged.  The Library was being modernized to create a public institution attractive to the growing youth population.

MPL Carnegie Library (1916)
(Note Entance Stairs to Sides)

MPL Carnegie Library (ca. 1963)
(Note Single Stairway Entrance)

This youthful appeal was particularly evident in the converting of the basement auditorium into the Pioneer Room, which was a full-time "young people's library" area.  MPL was one of the first Hoosier public libraries to designate a particular section devoted to young adults as their special library gathering place.

Youth services programs greatly expanded under Mrs. Marley's tutelage.  Year-round story times were scheduled for various children's age groups.  Many other youth and adult programs were established, which included such staples as summer reading, arts & crafts, and movies.  There were substantial increases in collection acquisitions, and a steady stream of new patrons was welcomed aboard during the 1960s.  By 1969, the Library's collections totalled 14,500 items.

Bonita Marley holds the India (short for Indiana) Likely Scrapbook,
one of the Library's local history treasures (undated photo)

Myrtle Keller, MPL Assistant Director, Bonita Marley, MPL Director,
and  Babs Sandefur, Page, showcase summer reading options (1970)

Mrs. Marley was cognizant that adults, too, needed to be enticed to come calling upon the Library.  She dramatically increased both fiction and nonfiction holdings in the adult collections.  She also felt that MPL should become the bastion of local history for Mooresville and the surrounding communities.  The Library had a long history of preserving local historical materials, but Mrs. Marley made this a priority.  So, in 1966, she hired the best possible person for the job.

MPL Director Bonita Marley and Assistant Director Wanda Potts (Feb. 1978 photo)

Wanda Potts became MPL Indiana Room Librarian (and an MPL Assistant Director) in 1966.  Both Wanda (born in 1921) and Bonita (born in 1906) were Mooresville natives and lifelong residents.  (Well, Mrs. Potts now lives in west Indianapolis, but that's a minor detail to this story.)  They knew as much local history as any two living persons, and they were directly responsible for the quality and breadth of the Library's Indiana Room collections that we enjoy today.  Had it not been for these two librarians, you would not now be reading this blog.  Their historical preservation efforts flow through my fingers as I'm typing.  As is true for all of the MPL librarians over the past 100 years, our century of public service is encapsulated in Bonita and Wanda.  They WERE the flesh-and-bone embodiment of the Library's goals and aspirations.  Our Library would not exist as we know it today without their tireless dedication to excellence and service.

Henry Conduitt House (1911).  Appearing in the picture, from left to right, are:
Florence (Shephard) Conduitt, age 33; Maude (Gray) Kenworthy, age 15;
Bonita (Conduitt) Marley, age 5; and Henry Conduitt, age 67.

Click here and also here to read more about Wanda Potts.  Below are some biographical highlights about Bonita Marley.  Click the image below to enlarge.

As I sit in the MPL Indiana Room, wearing Wanda's mantle as MPL's local historian, I am amazed, daunted, and mystified that I, of all people, should have been entrusted with this great responsibility.  But I am thrilled by the challenges, and the prospect of serving the Library's patrons brings me to work knowing that another day of sheer fun awaits.  I am blessed to have a job that is more play than work.  Who would have thought, way back in the Summer of 1978, when I briefly toured the MPL Carnegie Library, that the future would one day reward me so well?

Of this much, I am certain.  My girlfriend who took me to the Library said she planned to become a librarian because of her joyous adventures at MPL exploring books galore, but, also, because of Mrs. Marley.  She (my girlfriend, then; my wife, now) has been an honored member of the profession for over a quarter century.  I would hope that, if Mrs. Marley's spirit were to walk through the front entrance of our Library today, she would be pleased to see that "young fellow" from 1978, a little greyer in the hair and much more stout, working at "her" Library.  I hope she would be pleased by the way in which I serve our patrons.  I'm sure that she would, once again, welcome me back where I belong.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Back Where You Belong

April 8-14, 2012 is National Library Week, and the American Library Association (ALA) has many great ideas for librarians and patrons wishing to celebrate. Visit the ALA website for more details.

Mooresville Public Library has created a promo trailer showcasing National Library Week. Click the play button on the graphic below to watch the video.

MPL Promo Trailer
2012 National Library Week

Missed our promo trailer for 2011 National Library Week?  Not anymore.

MPL Program Trailer #18
2011 National Library Week
(Support Your Libraries)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

2012 Old Settlers is August 5-6-7

The Old Settlers picnic and  festival is slated for August 5-6-7, 2012 at Pioneer Park in Mooresville, Indiana.  The festivities begin with the Old Settlers parade through downtown to the park on Sunday, August 5, 2012.

My colleague, Cauli Le Chat, has posted a humorous blog about Old Settlers.  She includes a couple of our related videos.  It's worth a look see, as Cauli would say.

MPL Evergreen Indiana Float in the 2011 Old Settlers Parade

This blog has many postings about Old Settlers.  You may search for them using the search line in the upper left-hand corner of this blog page, or check the past postings menu along the right side.

You may also find the postings by going to a search engine (e.g., Google).  Use the search terms Mooresville Public Library Indiana old settlers treasure trove.  See what you find.