If you want to know something, ask a librarian. So, we did.
In recognition of National Library Week, the Press interviewed the librarians behind the counters at each of the public libraries in Weakley County. Kathy Watson of the Dr. Nathan Porter Library in Greenfield, Deena Smith at the Sharon Library, Judy Paschall at Gleason Memorial Library, Candy McAdams at the Weakley County Library in Dresden, and Roberta Peacock at C. E. Weldon Public Library in Martin.
Each gave us their perspective on the popular books and resources, underused resources, and why public libraries are critical to the community.
They also shared what they are currently reading.
For example, Watson has the biography of Stevie Nicks in her stack along with Pioneer Woman Lee Drummond’s current cookbook. McAdams likes murder and romance and favors authors like James Lee Burke and Stephen King. Peacock likes a good thriller as well and is making her way through Karen Slaughter’s “Good Daughter,” a graphic crime novel. Smith admits to having little time at the moment since she is planning her daughter’s wedding but can always find inspiration in her go-to choice of Christian fiction. And Paschall is preparing for her summer reading program emphasis – Libraries Rock This Year – and is making her way through a set of books for transitional readers including titles such as “What is Rock and Roll?”
“And it is a good, good book,” she confessed. “I wanted to take them home and read them to see if they are telling it like I would tell it.” Because at 70+ years of age, she proudly pointed out, “I lived it!”
Other titles in the series have inspired activities that are in the planning stages. “Who Is Milton Bradley?” prompted an upcoming day focused on Milton Bradley board games. “Who Is Frank Lloyd Wright?” has her working with a local architect on a presentation.
After librarians shared regarding Weakley County reading tastes, it was easy to see that readers tend to lean toward similar subject matter. Adults like bestsellers, and Christian fiction (often referred to as “the Amish books” because of their specialized covers). When it comes to nonfiction, tastes move to trends in the news. Currently, it’s politics.
John Green’s “Turtles All the Way Down” seems to be on many teen reading lists as well as fantasy and supernatural titles. Authors Holly Black, Phyllis Christine Cast, and Shannon Messenger bring other worlds to readers who all too often want to escape their teenage problems for a world unlike (and in some cases much worse) than their own.
As for children, John Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has the attention of young readers across the county. Beginning readers often gravitate toward whatever is being promoted or as Smith explains, “if they see a cover they like, they pick it up!”
If someone comes in looking for a suggestion, they need to be prepared to have their question answered with a question – several in fact. “What are you currently reading? What genres do you like? Who are your favorite authors?” are apparently part of the librarian script as all agree that the best recommendations are based on what the reader already likes.
“There are lots of lists available for if you like this, then you’ll like this,” said Watson.
Overwhelmingly, the local librarians agree the most frequently used resources are the 24/7 wifi and computers, noting that many job applications now must be done online and, this year, several completed their tax returns electronically. Weakley County Library even has five hotspots that have a waiting list of those wanting to have a week of free internet access in their homes. Gleason librarian Paschall said that the color printer there was a valuable tool for school projects.
However, when speaking of valued resources, Peacock is quick to underscore, “I can’t disqualify books, because my statistics show we check out more books than anything. We check out three times more books than any other resources.”
The one item that county librarians would like more people to realize is available is actually a huge collection of several items – the Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL). TEL, for anyone with a library card, is a database of practice tests for the ACT, SAT, and other exams, as well as magazines and encyclopedias that were once part of a library’s reference section.
“You can find anything on the Tennessee Electronic Library,” said McAdams. “It’s great for research … years back and current. It includes encyclopedias. You can learn a language. You can take an online course or study for tests.”
Other tidbits of information Weakley County librarians would like library users to know include:
The Weakley County Library is also the home of the Ned Ray McWherter Museum housing artifacts from the former governor’s life in West Tennessee and in government.
Programs – from how to paint, sew and use a computer – as well as entertainment like Martin’s summer movie nights are all available to the community.
Libraries connect the community inside the buildings but also via the phone or tablet. Books and apps like Libby offers e-books and audiobooks to anyone with a library card.
Each of the librarians pointed to the library as being a gathering place, that essentially the “untold story” of a library is its ongoing valued role in the community.
“Public libraries are the last free resource for our community,” Wallace said. “It doesn’t cost you anything but your library card. You can’t get free wifi at home. You can’t get free books at home, but you can here.”
Just ask a librarian.
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