Public Library: a Rector treasure
In one corner a child and his mother laugh softly as they flip through the colorful pages of a large book. In another, a young woman, her brow furrowed, concentrates intently as she uses a computer program to study for her GED.
Two retired men, both from this area originally, smile and talk in a nearby history room as they look through an extensive collection of scrapbooks, letting hundreds of photographs and newspaper clippings carry them back to an earlier time when they were younger and life was oh so different.
Several others scour shelf after shelf, looking through titles, searching for books which will, through their imaginations, take them to other times or places - or even other worlds.
This is a typical day at the Rector Public Library. And while it is located in a town of just over 2,000, the brightly lit and spacious building is filled with a wide range of items sure to capture the imagination of anyone who walks through its doors.
The library's 27,179 volumes, including some books on record and cassette and a growing collection of videotapes, cover a multitude of subjects and can entertain, inform, inspire and motivate. Many people take advantage of what the library has to offer.
"We check out 75 to 100 books and materials every day. I think that's pretty good for a town this size," librarian Deanie Wagster said with pride. "We have a lot of bookworms who come in often and read a lot of books."
Who are the favorite writers?
"Oh, we have lots of favorite authors," she said. "We are on a standing order for top authors, so we get all of their books. And if one or two people ask about a book we don't have, we'll order it. That's how we get new authors."
Mysteries and romance novels are among the most requested, she noted, and, while the list is long, favorite authors include James Patterson, John Grisham, David Baldacci, Danielle Steele, Al Lacy, Lori Copeland, Dale Brown and, for the young, R.L. Stine.
"We also have some popular inspirational writers," Wagster said. "There's Janette Oke, Tim Lahaye, who wrote the Left Behind series, and Robin Lee Hatcher."
The library has about 150 books on tape and a good selection of large print books. A collection of Arkansas videos, received last year from the state library, includes "Arkansas Black Gold," "We're #1," "War in the South," "The Way It Was," "War Comes to Arkansas," "Work Will Win," "War in the Delta," "War on the Frontier," "Blues in the Delta," "Ruben Dees Remembers" and "Festivals and World Championships."
The library's history room also boasts a large collection of Arkansas books, though they are to be used only in the library.
"We now have a computer in the history room, and soon it will be connected to the Internet," Wagster smiled. "We have all of the Clay County Democrats from 1950 to present on microfilm. We have some from 1926 to 1950, but it's hit and miss during that time. We have several scrapbooks on microfilm, and we now have a reader and printer for the microfilm."
A new scanner in the history room recently was donated to the library by Joey Pruett, brother of fulltime library assistant Deana Mills.
"We have Family Tree Maker for genealogy," Wagster added. "It is a 31 CD set for the computer with over three billion names. We have a lot of people who work on genealogy. Our guest book shows that people come here from Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma - really from all over the U.S.," she said, flipping through the pages.
The history room also boasts paintings, quilts, fashions from the early 20th century and many more items which tell the story of early life in this area.
The Rector Public Library has an online subscription to Learn-a-Test.com, which offers online practice tests in a number of areas. Academic tests include fourth grade, eighth grade, ACT, CUNY, NYC specialized high school, SAT and TASP. Law enforcement tests cover police officer, police sergeant, corrections officer, Border Patrol, California Highway Patrol and treasury enforcement agent.
Others areas include adult basic skills, Civil Service (federal clerical, civil service careers, postal worker), cosmetology, EMS (EMT basic and paramedic), firefighter, GED, military (ASVAB preparation), Postal Services (postal worker), real estate (sales agent, broker) and U.S. citizenship.
"When people come in, we can sign them up and get them started," Wagster said. "If they have a computer at home, they can then do it at home, but we have to get them started here."
How does a smalltown library fare so well in tough economic times?
"We have a lot of community support," Wagster said. "We get funding through the county millage, but we also get a lot of donations and memorials. A lot of people donate books, both hardback and paperback, to the library, and we put them on the shelf. We also have a lot of books given to honor someone."
Public libraries are not allowed to sell used books when new books are added, Wagster said. They can be discarded or given to a "Friends of the Library" group for a used book sale.
"The Rector Woman's Club has our Friends of the Library' group," she said. "We are lucky, because most Friends' groups keep half of what they make and give the other half to the library. Here they give us the whole thing to buy new books." Used book sales now are held monthly, she added.
The price of a new hardback book ranges from $20 to $30. "On the whole, we order all of the new volumes we add - at least 400 to 500 each year," Wagster noted. "The interlibrary loan system is not very active now, because we don't have a (regional) director. The cuts last year in state funding meant they cut way back on state and regional programs."
Though there is not a bookmobile currently available, Wagster said the Rector library delivers books to shut-ins upon request. "They can call us at 595-2410."
With National Library Week coming up April 14-20, Wagster, Mills and part-time assistant Betty Lewis are brainstorming to come up with ideas to celebrate.
"Right now we're planning a special Children's Day at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 16," Wagster said. "Woman's Club president Glenna Bookout will come a sing a little song to the children."
The library also will hold a reception that week to recognize the Woman's Club's Honored Lady for 2002, Jessie Malin, as well as a Patron's Appreciation Day and Volunteer Appreciation Day.
Preparations also are underway for the library's annual four-week summer reading program for children in pre-school through third grade, to be held in June. In conjuction with that event, a Charlie May Simon reading program is held for children in fourth through sixth grades. "The Charlie May Simon books for this year already have come in, but they can't be checked out yet," Wagster said. Some children already are inquiring about the popular books.
Library cards for patrons of the library are issued free of charge with a photo ID and proof of current address (such as a utility bill). Fines for overdue books are five cents per day up to $5 per book. "We have a lot fewer overdues since we have a book drop," Mills said.
Historian Barbara McKeel, a Rector native who resides in Manchester, Mo., spends quite a bit of time here with her mother, Jean McKeel, and often is at work at the Rector library doing research on Rector's early years or assisting folks with their genealogy efforts. Her column, "Keeping History Alive," appears each week in the Clay County Democrat.
"Anyone who has anything they want to share with us, or with Barbara, can bring it by," Wagster said. "We appreciate it."
Hours at the Rector Public Library are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.