Once upon a time, there was no public library in Boone County…

All stories have a beginning, and since I am the only surviving member of the first library board, I feel it is my duty to tell the tale. Once upon a time, there was no public library in Boone County. If someone wanted a book, one had to buy it or go to Covington to the Kenton County Library.

At the time, I was the president of the Boone County Jaycettes, the feminine arm of the Jaycees.  “Where is the library?” asked Mary Margaret Garies, a new member whose husband had been transferred with his job. She found it hard to believe that a county that was growing with new industries and a burgeoning population had no library. We agreed to do something about it.  We sat down and began to brainstorm.

Boone County needs a library. I knew we needed a go-getter, someone who was active in the community and got things done, someone who cared about the healthy growth of our county. Having worked with Ted Bushelman in the Jaycees, I knew he was that someone, and so I asked Ted to join us in our worthy endeavor.  He agreed, and we began to meet regularly.  We spread the word, and our group grew.  We chose the name, ABLE, the Association for Boone Library Encouragement. Through networking, others joined us from organizations like the Lions Club, Florence Women’s Club, Rotary Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Effective communication was a necessity, so we formed a speakers’ bureau.  Carol Ackley, Don Ravencraft, Ted and I created a presentation that highlighted the reasons a library would be a boon to the county.  Persuading voters to agree to a new tax was paramount.  We were ready for any negative question with a positive answer and spoke to any group who would have us.

In order to get the library issue on the ballot, we learned we had to have 1500 signatures on a petition.  So, we walked door-to-door asking for support.  After reaching the quota, we spent many hours in the courthouse verifying that each signature was valid.

We needed a slogan, simple and direct.  “I Want a Library!” became our mantra. Many lapels sported our campaign buttons that had a white background with the slogan in bold, dark blue letters.

At the same time, there was a faction in the county that wanted a new jail.  That, too, was going to be on the ballot. A few of the politicians were not very happy with us.  One told me “…not to screw up his jail issue”.  Another warned me that my property value could easily be reappraised so I would have to pay a higher tax.  A local businessman angrily said, “My kids will never use a library, but they might be in a jail.”

In mid-September, I had to have back surgery and was hospitalized for 30 days due to complications.  It was a good thing I had a phone in my room, (no cell phones then) because Ted and I talked several times each day, planning and keeping track of how the movement was progressing.

As we neared election-day, we enlisted the help of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  What a wonderful day it was as we watched those young people addressing postcards and folding pamphlets asking for support for the library issue.  I can still hear them cheering, “We want a library! We want a library! We want a library!”  The community had become involved, and “Library” was the buzzword wherever we went.  Many had gotten on-board promoting the issue;  many churches and organizations helped as the issue gained momentum.  Phil Carrico, the district librarian, was invaluable with his advice and support.

Election-day arrived.  I was on edge all day.  My mother and father, Roy and Elizabeth Nestor, kept our son, David, while I and my husband, Harold, went to the courthouse to wait for the votes to be tallied.  After the final count, Boone County WAS GOING TO HAVE ITS LIBRARY. The voters overwhelmingly supported the new tax that would pay for their own facility.  I remember crying and jumping up and down.  Two years of preparation and work had paid off.  A reporter from one of the radio stations came over to me and asked me to make a comment.  I remember saying, “I’m so thrilled the community wanted this. So many people of all ages worked long and hard for this cause. Now, Boone County is going to have its own library.”

The newly-appointed board consisted of Ted Bushman–president, Ginny Kohl–vice president, along with Don Ravencraft from Hebron, Emily Reeves–Florence and Gertrude Matheny–Burlington.  Our financial advisor was John Brockett.  We interviewed applicants for librarian and hired Jane Smith, who worked for the library system until her retirement of recent.  With Phil Carrico’s help, along with Charles Hinds, the state librarian, we went to work to find a temporary facility.  Mr. Nelson Markesbery had a boat shop and garage on Girrard Street that fit the bill.  He agreed to rent it to us, knowing that we would adapt it to accommodate our needs.  Kenton County gave us old shelves from its library, along with a desk, card catalog and books.  The state supplemented our supply of reading materials.  Soon, we were in business, and the Boone County Public Library opened its doors.

Thankfully, this library system’s story has no ending.  It continues to unfold with growth and great success.  I am sure we, Boone Countians, will enjoy its services and live happily together ever after.

–Ginny

Virginia Nestor Kohl (Ginny) is a retired teacher.  She was the Forensics coach at Boone County High School and directed the school’s plays and musicals.  Ginny taught English, interpersonal communications, speech, and drama.  She was also the yearbook sponsor.  She was married for 50 years to the late Harold Douglas Kohl.  Her son, David, teaches at Boone County High School, as well as her daughter-in-law, Krista.  Ginny has two grand-children, Ethan and Eliza, who are sophomores there.

 

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