The Life and Legacy of Ralph V. Lents

Mr. Ralph Lents has been on our minds lately- hasn’t he? In an earlier blog, we discussed how a little man in a plain brown suit has been watching over the Lents Branch on North Bend Road, long after he passed from this life. You may have heard by now that the current Lents Branch building will be closing its doors on September 1 to make way for a building that will better meet the needs of Boone County taxpayers. What we haven’t talked about is who Ralph V. Lents was and what motivated him to sponsor a sweet little library in the heart of northern Boone County.

2_174_Mr__and_Mrs__R_V__LentsIn 1974 with the aid of the Walton Advertiser and encouraged by former students and friends, Ralph Vernon Lents wrote and published his autobiographical memoirs. Born in Marshall County in 1896 to fourth cousins Rufus and Ada Lents. He was named for Ralph Waldo Emerson and Rufus and Ada hoped their young son would go on to great things. Lents recalled the first few years of life were lonely and very poor living on a rural and often wet farm where Rufus Lents raised corn, tobacco and hay. As poor as the family was and as many times as they had to move to find better land and a better life, school remained an important focus in young Ralph’s life. Throughout the years, young Ralph would excel at his studies, often winning spelling bees and outshining classmates in Latin and Algebra. While in school, he would still need to help bring in tobacco and cotton on the farm, as well as, pick up extra work as janitor of the high school in Hardin, Ky. As a career and vocation, he chose his greatest love, teaching.

In his memoirs, Lents reminisced about his adventures before coming to Boone County, Kentucky. Those adventures included a broken engagement, a broken marriage and a nearly deadly bout of typhoid fever. Mr. Lents had a passion for squirrel and rabbit hunting, as well as, fishing. He would take every opportunity to go hunting and fishing with friends, neighbors and even students. Ralph Lents met his second wife, life-long partner and Boone County native, Mollie Newman, while teaching in Pendleton County. They married in 1925 and soon they both graduated from Murray State Normal School, a teaching college- now known as Murray State University.

Hired by school trustee J.P. Dolwick in 1926, Ralph and Mollie Lents settled in to teaching at the Constance School located on the Ohio River, near the Anderson Ferry. The couple taught for 34 years and spent the remainder of their lives in Boone County. They didn’t have children of their own, so they dedicated their lives to teaching others. People still talk about how they would see Mr. Lents standing on the school playground holding all of the little girls’ purses as they played at recess. Others remember how he would hand out pennies and political information at Halloween — R.V. Lents was an ardent Democrat throughout his life.  The couple were active 4-H Club leaders and never missed a Boone County Fair. A pavilion at the Boone County Fair Grounds is named after Mr. Lents.

As life-long learners and educators, the couple saved up approximately a million dollars to be used to build a library branch in Hebron. For a man who grew up without shoes and picked cotton, a million dollars was a lifetime of savings. In 1989, five years after Ralph V. Lents passed, the R.V. Lents Branch of the Boone County Library System was dedicated in his memory. Through the years, the Lents Branch has offered story times and programming to young children and homework help to students, as well as, books and helpful resources to their parents. At BCPL, we like to think that Mr. and Mrs. Lents would be pleased how their branch has served the community and the children and grandchildren of their former students. Their legacy lives on through the lives of all the people who have  made use of the books and services provided by the Lents Branch.

–Bridget

Bridget Striker, graduate of the University of Kentucky, has been with BCPL since 2001 where she uses her background in archaeology, historic preservation and GIS mapping to ferret out elusive bits of Boone County history as the Local History Coordinator. Bridget serves as Vice-Chair of the Boone County Historic Preservation Review Board and Executive Board Member of the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.

Let’s Hear It For Audiobooks!

Everyone loves to hear a good story.  Luckily, your library offers many ways to enjoy all kinds of stories.  We have books on CD, books that can be downloaded to your smartphone, tablet or MP3 player and Playaways (like an MP3 player containing one book title). For kids, we have Playaway Views, where kids can watch and listen on a player that is just the right size for little hands.

June is National Audiobook Month, so if you haven’t listened to an audiobook yet, this is a perfect timWoman listening to music with headphones at the parke to give one a try.  Take one on vacation, to make the travel time go faster. Commuters love audiobooks, as the time spent commuting just seems to fly by. Audiobooks are great for multi-tasking. People like to listen to them while crafting, gardening, cooking, exercising, and cleaning.

Listening is so much fun and easy to do, more people are listening to books all the time. Overdrive, the supplier used by our digital download service, Kentucky Libraries Unbound, reported that audiobook usage went up 38% last year!

Why do people like audiobooks? It is such a pleasure to be read to, harkening back to the original tradition of oral storytelling. Excellent narrators (or readers) can really enrich a story, perhaps using accents to take you to a different place or time. They add the appropriate level of emotion or tension to a story and bring the personalities of characters to life.  I often find the narrator of an audiobook provides a much better “voice” to a character than I would “hear” in my head while reading a book. Personally, I love audiobooks that feature characters with accents different than my own.  Give me a narrator with a British accent reading an Austen or Dickens novel and I’m in heaven!  In fact, many people find audiobooks help them to better comprehend books with accents or difficult language, like “classics” or Shakespeare.  Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with something they are listening to, as they can be easily distracted when looking at something.  People with ADD find audiobooks allow them to focus better; and reading a print book while listening to the audiobook version can be very helpful to ESL learners.

Audiobooks can be a great way to get to know a work that, for whatever reason, you haven’t been able to bring yourself to read.  I have always loved nonfiction, but (to my chagrin), I find I sometimes feel too tired to read something that might be considered more challenging. But if I listen to a nonfiction book, I find I can concentrate better; and frankly, I think that I enjoy the book more. Audiobook listeners often find that they are more willing to try different types of books than they would ordinarily read, and are surprised at how much they like the new material.  Audiobooks can be more fun – you can’t “cheat” and look ahead to the end of the book to see how it will end; and not knowing quite when you will reach the end of an absorbing mystery can add an extra thrill.  Listen to a funny audiobook and don’t worry about laughing out loud!

The growing popularity of audiobooks and the shift to digital technology have brought down production costs, allowing book producers to invest in multiple voice audios and some original productions.  More and more books have audio versions, which are being released more quickly than they used to be.  The Audio Publishers Association reported that 6,200 audiobooks were published in 2010. That number jumped to almost 36,000 in 2013. The availability and variety of audiobooks is so exciting!

Audiobooks can hold special appeal to children. Audiobooks motivate kids to want to
read more. Listening to an audiobook while sight reading the same book in print can aid in comprehension and increase reading accuracy. Studies have shown that audiobooks can build and enhance literacy skills such as vocabulary, fluency, pronunciation and phonemic awareness. Audiobooks can help develop critical thinking and active listening skills, which are important in Common Core academic standards. Listening as a family offers opportunities for shared experiences and discussions.

Want to hear a sample of an audiobook; or get some ideas of titles you might enjoy?  Log on to Try Audiobooks.  The American Library Association’s “Listen List” publishes an annual list of what they consider outstanding examples of audios. Find the lists at http://www.ala.org/rusa/awards/listenlist. Search audiobook reviews and find more titles read by your favorite narrators on AudioFile magazine’s website http://www.audiofilemagazine.com.  To get the app to download audiobooks (and e-books) from our Kentucky Libraries Unbound service or for technical help, see the “free downloads” section at the bottom of our home page, http://www.bcpl.org.

I hope you will consider trying an audiobook this month.  If you are traveling, let an audio make the time go faster and more enjoyable.  If you’re at the pool or beach, listen while lying down – no worry about sun glare or getting pages wet.  Believe me, audiobooks are worth a listen!

–Julie

Julie Bockstiegel has worked as a Public Service Associate at the Florence branch of BCPL for over seven years. All of her life, people have commented that Julie always has her nose in a book. Now she frequently has her ears in one, too!