Winchesterites and Clark Countians have a real gem in their midst.
Actually, there are a number of gems hereabouts, including human gems, but this article chooses to focus on one in particular, our local public library.
And to be more particularly accurate, there are a number of gems within the facility itself, the people who work there and serve the public every day.
There are still some people around in this community who can recall the very early public library, a single room located on the upper floor of the courthouse, where schoolchildren were occasionally escorted because it was a time when elementary schools may not have had their own in-house libraries.
In the early 50s, the library moved into a Pullman car that was parked behind the city hall, facing onto Maple Street. At that time, the city hall contained the Winchester Fire Department — with trucks parked on a wooden floor supported by a forest of wood columns in the unoccupied basement — and the Winchester Police Department. The library remained there from 1952 until 1958, ably run by Mrs. Lynne Boxley.
From there, the library moved into the building on South Main Street that had been occupied by the Winchester Church of Christ and became a real icon of downtown Winchester. In 1976 an addition was made to the building that included an upstairs meeting room. For the first time since the inception of a local public library, the addition afforded a way for physically challenged individuals to access the building.
Now our local gem resides in a building completed in 1997 and added to in 2008, providing thousands of books and visual media as well as hundreds of publications and historical items, activities, documents, and access to a vast repository of past local newspaper editions and records that can be found nowhere else.
I had the honor and privilege of serving as a trustee on the library Board of Directors for four years, serving with a dedicated, unpaid, talented group of four other individuals whose sole purpose was to provide for the community and improve an already superb facility, its collections, and its value to the public.
I recently had the opportunity to request an inter-library loan for a book that was not on the local shelves. It was so easy to simply call the library and provide the title and author of the book I sought. The very pleasant staff member with whom I spoke efficiently took the information and let me know that I would be contacted when the book arrived.
Less than a week later, when I went to collect the book, I inquired about the process of requesting an inter-library loan. I was told of the extensive network available to libraries in which such requests are circulated far and wide and that many offers may come to provide the requested item. I was also told that books have come from as far away as Alaska.
The services available here far exceed what most even realize, and the staff here, led by Julie Maruskin, is efficient, knowledgeable, and eager to help all patrons. Use them. Get to know them. You’ll never regret it — and you’ll find more in our library than you ever imagined.
Our library has been serving the community for seventy years due to the efforts of a small group of local women who saw the need in the early 50s and rose to meet it.
The library is a vital part of this community, indeed of any community. Encourage it. Protect it.
While the means of disseminating information will undoubtedly change over the coming decades, our library will also change and remain a valuable asset to everyone here. A real gem.