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Little Book of BIG Stories Lauds Libraries’ Vital Services
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Tuesday, January 16, 2024
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Ed LaGrande, a Vietnam vet, has made The Community Library in Ketchum his office as he works on his novel revolving around a Vietnam vet since Perry’s Restaurant closed more than a year ago.

“Why do I research and write here? Well, a prominent wall inside our library is painted with the mission: ‘History and culture and ideas are not only held here. THEY ARE BORN HERE,” he writes.

LaGrande’s sentiments were passed along to Idaho’s 105 legislators on Monday as part of the unique anthology “A Little Book of BIG Stories: An Idaho Library Book,” compiled by The Community Library in collaboration with the Idaho Library Association and other libraries all over Idaho.

Eighty-seven Idahoans have contributed thoughts on the vital services and a sense of belonging that libraries provide. They describe human connections, story times, chess clubs, craft nights, language classes, earning a degree and paying bills online, educational support and even the power of having someone know your name.

The book was launched at the Freedom to Read-In event that took place on Saturday on the steps of the Capitol Building in Boise. The 2024 legislature is just a week old but already legislators have introduced a bill restricting the availability of books, magazines and other materials containing sex education,  LGBTQ themes and other so-called pornographic material in libraries.

“As we start a new year and a new legislative season, we are excited to celebrate the exuberant voices of people who use and depend on their local libraries throughout Idaho every year,” said Jenny Emery Davidson, executive director of The Community Library in Ketchum. “Libraries tend to be humble, yet there is so much to rejoice about them. Let’s make sure to listen to that rejoicing!”

The Little Book is modeled after the Armed Services Editions that were published during World War II to help soldiers get through wartime challenges. Librarians, booksellers, publishers, and the War Department recognized that service men and women needed comfort and entertainment to help them endure exceedingly difficult conditions. These unexpected collaborators printed and distributed 120 million copies of more than a thousand titles – lightweight paperbacks that could be printed inexpensively and swiftly.

“As we honor the work of libraries, we also want to reflect on that moment in history that highlights so profoundly how books can provide an antidote in trying times,” said Emery Davidson. “We want to remember those Armed Services Editions and how it meant the world to soldiers to be able to open the pages of a book and roam freely in their imaginations. And it means the world to people to be able to read freely now, too.”

A copy of the book is being delivered to the 150-plus every library in Idaho. A digital version is also available on The Community Library’s website at https://comlib.org/2024/little-book-big-stories-2024/

Or, check out https://comlib.org/wrp-content/uploads/2024/01/Little-Book-FINAL-PDF

A FEW EXCERPTS:

Every day I rode a bicycle to the Boise Public Library. I read. I used the bathroom. I dreamed of someday publishing a book that might wind up on the shelves around me… what if I use the story to explore the longings inside each of us to both escape home and to do right by the people we love? It was the first story I ever wrote that I was proud of. I could not have written it without a place to think, work, and dream…A public library is more than a storehouse of books. It is a safe public indoor space where every citizen is welcome to chase dreams. ~Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author, Boise Public Library, Boise

We were forced to move to the USA because a bloody war began in our country. We weren’t prepared for a new life, language, and different cultures. Someone said to me, “The library can help you.” When I came to the library in Sandpoint, I could just say, “My name is Mariia and I need help. I need to speak English.” Everyone was very kind to me and immediately began to help me. They found me a wonderful English teacher and I am still learning English. I am very grateful to everyone at the library. I would like to see a similar library program for kids and adults in my city of Dnipro, Ukraine. ~Mariia, East Bonner County Library District, Sandpoint 

Growing up poor and not having much money for activities, the library filled that void for me. I was able to check out as many books as I wanted and able to spend hours looking at books at my library—all for free. – Laurie L. Mondloch, Mountain Home Public Library

“I HAVE ALWAYS IMAGINED that paradise will be a kind of library,” wrote Jorge Luis Borges, the great short story writer and essayist. Fortunately for those of us who love books, they are also paradises on earth, free and welcoming spaces where both kids and adults can dream and learn and grow. Libraries provide essential services to communities like Fairfield, where I live, becoming the gathering place for residents and the heart of the town. –Judith Freeman, Camas Library in Fairfield

…When I became a widow five years ago…the library became a part of my social life and helped ease my social isolation. The monthly book club meetings offered warm fellowship, stimulating book discussions . . . and warm soup. The librarian Liesl helped me with computer lessons so I could pursue some online college art courses. And senior librarian Jane always kept fresh new books readily available…--Leah M. Holce, Stanley Community Library

….There should be no fear in letting the masses read books for themselves and come to their own conclusions about a topic. My library in Ketchum, Idaho, encourages reading, promotes literacy, advocates for civil discussion, and offers a safe space to explore the whole wide world. The world is not made up of one group, tribe or political viewpoint, and local libraries provide a window into other worlds. Let us remember that explorers cannot be afraid to go out and see what is beyond their backyard.—Kelly Noble, The Community Library in Ketchum

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