Alice Johnson took the job as Florence’s librarian in March because she loves books — she said that was her singular qualification.
She identifies with library regular Betty Fetrow. At 90, Fetrow will stop in at the library once a week and take at least five books off the shelves — sometimes it’s as many as eight novels. She reads them all in one week’s time and returns like clockwork each week, hungry for more. Occasionally Fetrow will ask if Johnson has read a particular book, to which Johnson usually responds, “No but you said it was good.”
Keeping up with a prolific reader like Fetrow is easy enough — just make sure there is a ready supply of large-print mysteries available. The provider is the state book van, which drops off 350 books every two months.
A library in a small town serves other purposes than a supply of reading material. Brock Mitchell is another regular at the library, appearing daily to use one of the library’s computers. For Mitchell, 10, the library provides access to the Internet. Recently, he was video chatting with a friend, an activity Johnson did not know was possible with the computer technology available. Mitchell briefly explained there was a camera located inside the laptop.
Johnson admits she has a lot to learn about the electronic side of running a library. What she knows is that the library’s computers are out of date and failing. The library, existing on $10,000 a year from the state, cannot pay for the new equipment.
“I knew they were old,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know they would up and quit.”
Johnson has teamed with Auntie M’s Diner owner Mary Britton and manager Rene Starkey to raise money for new computers. Britton and Starkey created three intertwining promotions for the cause. The first is a poster featuring cartoon cattle in a corral. A cow is added for every $50 donation. The pen is complete with one bull, a $100 donation. There are also the rubber ducks perched on Auntie M’s counter. Each duck is earned with a $3 donation. The ducks, used for “not ducking responsibility,” have been a ploy by the Auntie M’s crew to raise $1,606 for the pool and $100 in books for the library last summer.
Using the resources they have available, Britton and Starkey are also selling cookies and ice cream sandwiches for donations. All together, the promotions have raised $450 in about three week’s time. Britton and Starkey are aiming for about $1,000. Established early in the fundraising process, Britton and Starkey have an agreement with an anonymous donor who will match the amount raised. Johnson has also looked into a state grant, which would also match the initial amount raised.
A different anonymous donor from Marion also donated an Apple laptop.
Johnson intends to use the funds raised to purchase at least two new computers. She wants to relieve demand for computers in the summer. She likes to have the library open in the morning before the pool opens at noon. Often children on summer vacation take advantage of available computer time before heading out into the sun.
The Florence library is celebrating its 90th Anniversary on Saturday, which is the same day Santa is visiting the Florence City Building.