Love for Steelers help drives Mechanicsburg library auction
The Joseph T. Simpson Public Library credits Steelers Country for the library’s recent success with its online auction.
Last week’s auction involved some feverish bidding on four tickets to the Steelers’ home game this fall. The home game tickets were both the top grossing and the most bid upon item in the auction. Another Steelers item — a Hines Ward autographed helmet — was also in the top five.
Overall, the 180 items on the auction block helped the library net almost $10,000, surpassing the library’s goal of $6,000 for the auction.
“Our event was incredibly successful because of donor generosity and the enthusiastic competitiveness of our auction bidders,” said Library Director Sue Edrman.
Other favorites in the online auction were a weekend getaway to Gervasi Vineyard, Hotel Hershey Resort and Spa gift certificate, a hot air balloon ride, an iPad and specialty baked goods.
Carlisle library director retiring after 42 years promoting reading
CARLISLE — Linda Rice’s 42-year library career has taken her from an old Sunoco gas station in Huntingdon, W.Va., to the newly renovated $6.5 million Bosler Memorial Library.
After seeing a generation pass through the doors of Bosler, Rice decided to retire at the end of June and informed the library board of her plan a year ago.
“I’m tired — it’s time,” Rice said. “I’ve been the director 25 years … It’s time to turn it over to a younger generation.”
Rice started her library career out of college as a clerk in the children’s department of a library in Huntingdon, W.Va. Two years later, in 1973 she was promoted to librarian of a new branch — in a former gas station.
“The first day I saw it, it still had lifts and grease on the walls. We painted and poured concrete and turned it into a library,” she said. “Librarians do it all — we’re not prima donnas.”
When Rice came to Bosler Library in 1985 as a reference and adult services librarian, there were no computers, and no way for patrons to see the holdings of the other libraries in the county.
Standalone computers came to Bosler in 1990, and in 2000 there was the first computer lab.
Classes were held for 50 and older patrons who had never touched a mouse, said Rice, who recalled an 86-year-old man who was thrilled to have received his first email from his grandson. “That was priceless to me,” she said.
Today, Bosler has 78 computers for staff and the public, with 30 percent more added in the expansion.
“The Internet changed everything,” she said, allowing all libraries to have access to the same databases and information, which she said “levels the playing field for everyone. You can be in your robe and pink fuzzy slippers and go on our website at 3 a.m. and do your research.”
Rice still recalls the first reference question they answered using the Internet: “What is the address of the space camp?” Huntsville, Ala. — up it popped. It was almost instant gratification,” she said. “We couldn’t find it in our books. We would have had to contact NASA.”
The library’s circulation in her first year as director was 132,000. Now, it’s more than 500,000, and helps Cumberland County Library System’s ranking as the busiest per capita in the state. There were 13 employees in 1988, and 39 today.
Books on tape evolved into e-books. Some day, Rice said she believes libraries will be streaming movies, once bandwidth constraints are addressed. Right now libraries are still in a “shake-down period” with publishers over the cost and availability of the books, she said, but patrons are finding ways to access them. The system’s patrons rank third in the state in users of the Free Library of Philadelphia, which has a large collection of free e-books.
Rice’s retirement plans include relaxing at her Carlisle home with her two dogs, and getting things done around the house. “I’m a homebody,” she said.
A new director for Bosler has been named — Jeffrey Swope, who has been coordinator of youth services at Dauphin County Library System for the past three years, and was an assistant library director in Williamsport. With his youth services background, Rice said she hopes he will launch new services for teens, who so far haven’t had a lot of library programming directed toward them.
Despite the advancing technology, Rice doesn’t doubt books will remain on library shelves for a long time to come. “I think people will still be reading books, children will still be coming in to get picture books. The kids are where it all starts,” she said.
“I think there will always be somebody carrying a stack of books out of here to sit on their back porch and read, or soak in the bathtub and read,” she said, joking that may be “the dinosaur point of view.”
Bosler Library in Carlisle sees rising circulation in newly renovated facility
CARLISLE — With the bulk of the $6.5 million renovation and expansion of Bosler Memorial Library completed ahead of schedule, library patrons are apparently making up for lost time.
Circulation in the first quarter is up 26 percent from last year, and 4 percent from 2011, said Linda Rice, library director.
“Our circulation tanked during construction, as we knew it would,” she said, with the library continuing to operate throughout the nearly two-year construction period. “We’re ramping back up. We’re starting to get back to business as usual.
Bosler is now on target to surpass its record circulation of 511,000 in 2009, she said.
Programming also is starting to pick up. The children’s department started programs the same week it moved in just before Christmas. Adult programs are taking off now, since the last piece of audiovisual equipment, a projector, was installed. They include three book discussion groups and an armchair travelers series. Coming up at 7 p.m. May 17 is a one-man show on Dr. Benjamin Rush (1745-1813). The founder of Dickinson College and famous physician and philanthropist will be portrayed by Dr. Craig Jurgensen of Carlisle.
"I love it, except for the parking — it's still too small," said Nichole Harner, of Carlisle, who as a nanny brings a child frequently to the library. "It's bigger — it gives us more area to be in. The new feeling of it makes it feel better. We come here on rainy days a lot for storytime and to get books."
There are still some renovations yet to complete over summer.
“In a few months we will reopen our original entrance,” which has been locked since 1987, Rice said.
The façade, which has cracks, will be replaced, along with the roof over the east wing, and some lighting and air conditioning work.
The renovations in the rotunda at the entrance, which now leads to the library’s Bookery area, turned up a beautiful tile floor that had been covered up years ago. Surprisingly, the floral motif is in the same colors of the library — green, tan and cream.
The library moved into its expanded quarters in December, four months ahead of schedule, thanks to a mild winter. The project was completed in two phases: first, building a south addition on the rear parking lot, and then renovating the library’s west and east wings.
One of the things Rice likes most about the new library is “the look on peoples’ faces when they come in and see all the changes ... It’s the atmosphere — it’s big, but it’s comfortable, homey.”
More space is also a major improvement, with the library doubling in size, to 42,000 square feet. “People were so jam-packed in before,” she said.
The library now has spacious aisles, a large dividable community room. The children’s area, which is on the second floor, is triple the size of the old one, nestled in the west corner with bright window lighting and plenty of room for storytelling and play.
Kids also have their own program room, instead of having to share one with the grownups. Some days they had to tear down and set up the program room four times a day, Rice recalled.
A new teen room has been added, for which programs will be planned.
Computers are scattered throughout the library, which gives more privacy as people do tasks such as banking and job applications, she said.
The Bookery book sale area operated by the Friends group has larger quarters for its venture, which brings in $50,000 a year. Stained glass windows that were in the 1987 wing were saved and reused in this wing of the library.
Before deciding to renovate on West High Street, Rice said they had looked at a former Sprint building near a shopping center, which would have offered one floor and ample parking.
“But it wasn’t downtown where we wanted it to be. It would have changed the library as a walk-to place," she said. “Even though we were land-locked and needed a multi-floor plan, we still intended to stay here.”
Parking was the No. 1 question to be answered, since the library lost half of its parking spaces in the rear, and now has 22. In 2007, Borough Council said it build a metered lot with 75 to 100 spaces within a block, but that has yet to happen, Rice said. There is a parking garage behind the library, and metered spaces on the surrounding streets.
The $6.5 million project was paid for with a $2 million state grant, and the library raising the other $4 million. They started fundraising just as the economy tanked, but still successfully completed the nonprofit’s largest capital campaign the Carlisle area had ever seen.
They visited other libraries to find what features worked and didn’t work, and Rice said the project architect was told that "form follows function. “We told them, ‘You can make it pretty, after we make it work.’"
Flexibility has been built into the new library, so that as needs change, the library can respond. “We tried to build with the anticipation of moving things around,” Rice said, because nobody knows exactly what the library of the future will be like.
Mechanicsburg library posts online versions of historic books
It got to the point where even a morsel of yellow dog was satisfying to Isaac Elliott.
A Union Army soldier, the Pennsylvania man was suffering from starvation and exposure while caught in the hell of Andersonville Prison.
“The sights I saw upon entering the stockade filled me with horror,” the survivor recalled decades after that May, 1864 moment.
“The camp contained about 15,000 prisoners. After seven or eight months, a robust healthy man would be reduced to a walking skeleton covered with filth and vermin.”
His is just one story of courage and conviction recently made available on the Internet by the Joseph T. Simpson Public Library of Mechanicsburg.
Last fall, the library received a $2,500 grant from the Mechanicsburg Area Foundation to digitize “Personal War Sketches” along with two “minute books” from the Colonel H.I. Zinn Post No. 415 of the Grand Army of the Republic.
“The books are very old and very fragile,” said Sue Erdman, library director. “They are too valuable to have people handling them. With today’s technology, they can be posted online so people around the world can look at them.”
Described as a memorial, the original “Personal War Sketches” is a one-of-a-kind resource on Civil War history documenting the service record and stories of about 270 GAR members. Written by Alexander and Matilda Underwood, it was presented to the Mechanicsburg veterans post in 1896 and is on temporary loan to the Mechanicsburg Museum Association.
Association members plan to incorporate the book into an exhibit at the Freight Station Museum, 3 W. Allen St., which starts on June 15, runs through Oct. 19 and features as its centerpiece the Confederate occupation of Mechanicsburg during their 1863 invasion of Cumberland County, said Joan Quick, a member of the MMA board of directors.
This summer marks the 150th anniversary of the invasion that ended in the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in early July. The intended goal of the Army of Northern Virginia was the capture of Harrisburg. Confederate forces moved through the Cumberland Valley in late June 1863 during their approach to the objective.
“We were the precursor to that,” said Quick, explaining how the Rebels had demanded food from Mechanicsburg residents. Other exhibit features include a display of Civil War era medical equipment, letters to home from soldiers in the field and period-style clothing on loan from re-enactors. There will also be a display of instruments and other artifacts from the Singer Band, a community ensemble that formed prior to the Civil War.
The Death Carts
Each entry in the “Personal War Sketches” book was written to a standard format with the same ornate banner on the top of each page. In every case, the veteran was referred to as “comrade” in the text.
Some accounts are sketchy and only include such basics as the date the veteran entered service, the units he served in and the battles he fought in. Other entries are more extensive and include graphic details such as the experiences of Elliott as an inmate at Andersonville, an infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war camp.
“About eight feet into the stockade was called the dead line and woe to the man who stepped across it,” Elliott recalled. “A stream of filthy warm water ran through the stockade. This we had to drink.
“A poor cripple was shot by my side for stepping close to the dead line,” Elliott added. “He said he was so miserable, he wanted to die. Every day there were from 50 to 100 corpses waiting for the dead carts. I saw a man lying near the stream. The maggots were eating him up. Nothing could be done for him until the cart came and picked him up...”
Until 2001, “Personal War Sketches” was hidden away in library storage in a carrying case made of varnished wood. It was believed the book was found at the old high school (now Schoolhouse Apartments) located near the library’s former location on Simpson Street, Erdman said. Someone had brought the book to the library.
In 1999, the library received a $3,500 grant from the Mechanicsburg Area Foundation to microfilm the book and back issues of old newspapers. Two years later, the foundation donated the $5,000 the library needed to buy a microfilm reader/printer to make “Personal War Sketches” accessible to readers.
Last August, the library applied for the $2,500 foundation grant to not only digitize “War Sketches” but the minute books with GAR meeting notes from 1887 to 1900. The library wanted an alternative form of access to the microfilm reader which is getting harder to repair and find parts for, Assistant Library Director Linda Wilson said.
“People do not have to just come into the library to use it,” Wilson said of digitized collection. “It will be good for researchers. We are contacting area schools, historical societies and college history departments.”
Leftover money from the process will be used to publish promotional material announcing the URLs of the three digitized books from the GAR post 415.
Digitized Books at Joseph T. Simpson Library
Joseph T. Simpson Public Library Director Sue Erdman left, and Assistant Director Linda Wilson, display several books dating back to the late 1800's from the local Grand Army of the Republic post of Civil War veterans. The library recently received a grant to digitize the books.
Photo courtesy of Jason Malmont.