Monday, June 4, 2012
Storytime with Miss Isabelle
The Village of Camden Corners
Storytime with Miss Isabelle
Isabelle Burke had been the story lady at the Camden Corners Public Library for as long as anyone could remember. Every Wednesday afternoon for the last 50 years, the children would gather around Miss Isabelle as she read the words of a book found on the library shelves. No one could read a story like Miss Isabelle. Her young audience was always enchanted as she read each word with enthusiasm for all those many years.
Isabelle always loved reading and when she was a young woman it was only natural that she would become the newly established library's first head librarian. During the first summer the library was open, Isabelle sat on the front lawn during her lunch break and started reading aloud. Before long, children stopped their play and circled around her as she read. Without intending to, Isabelle had started a tradition and every Wednesday afternoon from then on, children gathered on the lawn or inside the library to hear a new tale from the many books on the shelves.
Isabelle, now a great grandmother had given up her position at the library many years before but, no matter how busy she was or how many of her children needed her attention, she always found time to visit the library on Wednesday afternoon and read from the pages of a carefully selected book.
On a beautiful early spring day, Isabelle arrived at the library at her regular time. The children were already beginning to assemble on the front lawn as Helene Robinson hurried to the spot near the oak tree with a chair for her friend to sit on. Gone were the days when Isabelle was able to sit on a blanket with her young audience.
“I don't mind sitting on the ground” she was known to say “I just don't know how in the world I would manage standing up again.”
“I'll see you after storytime Isabelle.” said Helene. They had become fast friends after Helene moved to Camden Corners to be close to her son. Helene had fallen in love with the quaint village. She thought it was fate that brought her here for a visit just when Sarah Harcourt was resigning her position in the library. Helene was hired immediately and had begun her new job several weeks before.
Sarah warned her that finances in the locally supported library may be a problem. The building had been having some structural problems and repairs had been costly.
“As much as our community has supported us, it is uncertain whether we will be able to continue without joining forces with the Greensboro Library.” Sarah said.
Although Helene liked the fact that Camden Corners had been able to have their own independent library, she didn't think it would be a big problem if they did join with Greensboro. Coming from a large city, she could see the advantages of being able to share resources with another facility.
One of the older children helped Isabelle carry the chair back to its place in the reading room.
“Thank you, Jonathan.” she told the young boy
“See you next week Miss Isabelle.” he replied
“Come Isabelle, have a seat. I've just made a pitcher of lemonade. I'm sure you would like to wet your whistle after reading out in that warm sunshine.”
“That would be wonderful Helene.”
Just then, Annie Mackenzie knocked on the door. “I'm sorry to disturb you Mrs. Robinson, there is a gentleman here who says he's from Greensboro Library and insists on speaking with you.”
“Oh yes, I was expecting Mr. Ellis later this afternoon. Thank you Annie, please ask the gentleman to come in.”
“I'll leave now Helene. You have business to take care of.”
“Don't leave Isabelle. You are a very important part of our library. Let's both hear what Mr. Ellis has to say.”
A very stern looking gentleman entered the room.
“I'll make this brief Mrs. Robinson. I have very little time and I must return to Greensboro shortly. First, let me assure you we will be keeping you on in the position of head librarian in this branch. You will answer directly to me. I have obtained the services of an efficiency expert. He will be here on Monday morning. I expect you will fully cooperate with him. I will let you know his findings and suggestions for improvement of this branch of the Greensboro Free Library. Good day!”
Helene and Isabelle chuckled after the door closed behind Mr. Ellis. Helene didn't want to admit it to her friend but she had a very uneasy feeling about the future of the Camden Corners Library.
At precisely 8:00 sharp, Wilburn P. Wickstrom opened the library door. He greeted a smiling Helene with a curt nod and proceeded to scour the library from one section to another. He examined the accounts, asked a few questions, scribbled notes on his clipboard and bid Helen farewell at 9:42 on the dot.
“What a strange little man.” Helene said to Emma Crowley who was selecting a book to read that afternoon while Robert was in court in Greensboro.
“I guess that makes it official, Helene. Greensboro will be taking over our library. I certainly hope they don't change anything we have come to love about our library.”
“I don't know Emma, I am a bit concerned. Both gentlemen who have visited here have the personality of a snail. I'm hoping that doesn't reflect in their decisions about our facility.”
“I wonder, Helene, maybe we shouldn't have been so hasty letting Greensboro take over the library. Certainly there was another solution. Do you suppose it's too late to try to raise some money to pay for the recent repairs?”
“It's quite a lot of money. I know Camden Corners folks are generous but they all have their own expenses to contend with. Maybe it won't be such a bad thing. I do believe we will have better access to more of the latest publications with Greensboro. I'm not going to panic until I see their list of proposals.
Word spread through the town that there may be changes in the way their library was operated. Camden Corners Library had always been a source of pride to the residents. The report was due for presentation to the members of the library board and the townsfolk were planning to be there in force to hear what those uppity Greensboro Library people had to say.
With total lack of charm, Mr. Ellis read from a long list of changes to be made when the library was under new management.
“The library hours of operation will be curtailed. The facility will be open a mere three days a week. The park adjacent to the library will be sold to the highest bidder. Since the Camden Corners Grammar School is perfectly capable of reading stories to the children, story hour will be abolished.”
Mr. Ellis continued to list the changes as those in the audience drowned out the sound of his voice. Evelyn Keys, who was in charge of the meeting pounded her gavel to no avail.
Finally, Oscar Crowley, in his booming voice called for order.
“We will never be able to settle this matter if everyone speaks at once. Mr. Ellis, thank you for your input. The Board will consider your suggestions and notify you of their decision. We bid you a good evening, sir.”
“Don't wait too long, my good man. Our offer to bail you folks out will not be an option for very much longer.” said Mr. Ellis as the door closed behind him.
Harold Hightower stood asking to be heard.
“As our friends and neighbors are aware, my brother and I are the recipients of a large trust left to us by our Uncle Shane Howard. We would be happy to donate as much money as is needed to continue the operation of our library as we know it.”
“Oscar, would you please preside over the remainder of this meeting. I believe we are in need of your guidance.” Evelyn asked.
Oscar stood at the podium. “I'm sure we are all very appreciative of your very generous offer Harold. It would be the solution to our problem. You see, if you and Howard were to invest your money, it would no longer be a public library and we would not receive the many benefits we do now. No, the only way I can see out of this situation is to raise the money ourselves. I don't see any way we will be able to do that in the short term.”
“Oscar, may I interrupt?” Leland Harvey, the town's banker asked. “I have been examining our banking policies and may have a temporary solution. I have been authorized to grant a six month loan to the Library Association at a very low interest rate. The loan would enable the community time to raise the needed revenue to continue the library's operation as it is now.”
“That may be the solution Leland. We would need a way to raise the money. Individual donations may be accepted but they are limited. We would have to find a way to raise money in various ways.”
Sarah Harcourt stood up. “I am so saddened to think of how many children will miss storytime at the library. I don't remember a time when I didn't look forward to Wednesday afternoons listening to Miss Isabelle's warm voice reading an incredible tale. Our town has many talented youngsters and some older folks too. Remember how popular our Christmas programs have been the last couple of years? We have been able to attract many folks from surrounding towns.”
Caroline Bentley offered her own suggestion “The winery is completed. We could stage dancing contests in the ballroom.”
“Why not an auction? I think we could raise quite of bit selling off some of mother's treasures” said Millie Stout as Mr. Leland Harvey smiled in her direction.
“Oh yes, that's a wonderful idea.” added Dahlia Hightower. “Sister and I have dozens and dozens of quilts from our shop. We have them stored in the attic and I'm sure they would bring in some money.”
Oscar was beaming as he looked around the room and heard the enthusiasm in everyone's voices. He noticed Miss Isabelle was wiping a tear from her eye. His beloved Nettie was talking with groups of people already beginning the organization of each and every project.
Evelyn managed to capture the attention of the board members who unanimously agreed to the banker's offer. She adjourned the meeting and joined the group who were discussing the the production they would be presenting in the near future.
Mr. Harvey pushed his way through the crowd to join Millie's group. He always thought she was a fine looking woman and now that she had come down to earth she was even more attractive to him. Leland Harvey chuckled to himself. He had been married to his bank all these years but was finding he had a soft spot for Mrs. Millicent Merryweather Stout now that she had become just plain Millie.
Oscar had a good feeling about this venture. With most of the townspeople up in arms at the thought of losing control over their library, he had no doubt they would be able to raise the money needed.
Yes, indeed! He was very proud of his friends and neighbors and the friendly community of Camden Corners.