Remembering the Library’s Early Days

As an associate in the Local History Department, I focus on Boone County’s history throughout my workday. When the occasion of the library’s 40th anniversary grew near, I began to look at the history of this institution and its impact on me personally.  There is a full-circle feel to what I do, that has not escaped me since my tenure as an employee of the library began.

A lot has changed in Boone County since my family moved here from Louisville in the early 1970s. At that time in our county, we were definitely gearing up for growth.  The industrial park was flourishing, bringing businesses to the area, the airport was expanding, and the Florence Mall was on the verge of being born.  Though all of these things were important community builders, I was not even old enough to go to school yet, so they didn’t make my top ten list.  Trips to the library, however, rank very highly.

My memories of our earliest years here, spent in a tiny house on Girard Street, revolve around typical childhood experiences: learning to ride a bike, playing in the (equally tiny) back yard, and going to the library.  girard with GS aged photo rgb As luck would have it, in 1974 the first library was opened in the feed store, directly across the street from our little house.  If I’m honest, I really don’t have clear memories of the opening, what I remember is the excitement of all of the adults.  For years, I’ve heard family and friends affectionately joke about the chosen location of the first public library.  The funny thing is, it was always spoken of with pride of accomplishment, not criticism.  My takeaway from these comments has always been that we wanted this library system, no matter where it was.  It was really a brilliant choice, given the agricultural nature of our community. Why not pick up a book when you stop for sweet feed?

Until the opening of the first public library here, residents would need to go to Covington or Cincinnati for library services, so this was a huge development in Boone County. Thanks to the 1973 grass-roots effort of a few very determined folks in the citizen’s group A.B.L.E. (Association for Boone Library Encouragement), a library tax was placed on the ballot, and the wheels were set in motion. With the approval of the tax, funding was in place to hire young librarian Jane Smith, and set up the temporary branch. The planning of the first permanent structure began on U.S. 42 in Florence.

When the Florence Branch was open for business in 1976, my friends and family became regular visitors. My family loves to read, so having access to so many books was fabulous, but the choices didn’t end there.  There were story times, craft projects and albums at the library.  Yes, kids, vinyl albums. My brother and I reached our maximum item limit easily with everything from top 40 collections to one very scary Halloween album; we each checked that one out multiple times.  My mother was in graduate school at the time, so the library offered her valuable resources and even more valuable entertainment for the kids.

Our experience surely mirrors that of other Boone County families through the years, as our library system has grown with the community. We now have six branches to reach the folks in all corners of Boone County, as well as outreach programs.  We offer access to: history and genealogy research, technology and instruction, a variety of programming for all ages and interests, and a dynamic collection that is always adapting to community wants and needs.

Forty years later, here I am, as a library associate and loyal patron, enjoying an unbelievable amount of resources and programs with my own children.

–Hillary

Hillary Delaney is a Local History Associate at Boone County Public Library. She is a Boone County native, but has also lived in Richmond, VA, where she attended Virginia Commonweath University to study journalism. Hillary moved back to her hometown of Florence in 2007, with her husband and two children. Her lifelong love of all things historic brought her to her current position at BCPL.

 

Do Picture Books Accurately Represent Modern Families?

Over the past few years, there has been a surge of interracial families appearing in popular TV shows and being featured in prime time commercials.  This representation has sparked discussion and highlights the growing percentage of interracial families and bmultiracial photoiracial/multiracial children.  Recent studies have shown that over 8.5% of all marriages in the US are between individuals of different races or Hispanic ethnicity, and over 15% of new marriages in 2010 alone were interracial.  As the face of America begins to change, it raises the question, “Are children’s books accurately representing modern families?” which may make you wonder, “Why do they need to?”

While infants as young as six months old have been shown to recognize differences in skin color, children as young as three begin to display marisolattitudes about different races.  Picture books can be excellent tools in explaining the differences and similarities between races and cultures and can showcase socially accepted behavior in and reactions to the multicultural world.  Multicultural books in particular can also aid in identity formation and improve self-esteem for multiracial children.

Currently in the United States, there are over 9 million multiracial Americans (more than 8% of the minority population).  Hispanic/White is the most common combination in interracial families with Asian/White and then Black/White following.  Unfortunately, there currently exists only a handful of available, picture books that feature these families, and finding these books can be a challenge as many are lumped in with “multicultural” labels or are completely unidentified.  Within these titles, there is also evidence that the families represented do not match current population statistics.

  • Even though Hispanic/White and Black/White families are 1st and 3rd in population statistics, the majority of interracial picture books show Black/White families, followed by Asian/White.  An even smaller percentage shows Hispanic/White.
  • The majority of multiracial children’s books feature families that live in multicultural or predominantly minority communities.  Very few show interracial families that live in predominantly White communities.
  • Most interracial families in picture books depict minority mothers and White fathers.  However, the opposite is true for the population, particularly in Black/White and Hispanic(Latino)/White families.

While research has shown that most “multicultural” books have been black_white_just_rightwritten by White authors, more recent books that depict interracial families are coming from authors and illustrators that are telling their own stories, or those of their loved ones. This indicates the present and increasing need for diverse authors and illustrators.  While there are other factors that contribute to the discrepancies identified above, encouraging diverse authors to share their personal, real-life stories, and demanding more accurate portrayals of families from publishers may eventually resolve most of those gaps and insufficiencies.

The look of America is changing, and so is Boone County.  As we become a more diverse community, we want all of our children to feel normal, included, and accepted.  They need to see themselves in the books they read.  They need to be exposed to different kinds of families, and we need to have the resources to help them. 

If you’re looking for a great list of multiracial picture books, check out this Goodreads list and check out BCPL’s Diversity picture book category.  Every month, BCPL provides opportunities for local writers, young and old, to share their work and receive feedback and encouragement.  We welcome you to come explore our diverse collection and share your own stories at our Writer’s Group, Teen Writer Tuesday, or Middle School Writers Group.

--Dawna

Dawna Neil is the Teen Librarian at the Scheben Branch of BCPL.  She is a former admissions counselor and teacher and a graduate from the University of North Carolina where she focused her research on the representation of multiracial children and families in children’s literature.  

Sources:

  • 2012 Pew Research Center report, The Rise of Intermarriage
  • Library Quarterly’s, Inside Board Books: Representations of People of Color

University of North Carolina’s, Mixed & Matched: the Representation of Interracial Families in Children’s Books