The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card

Buried up to your nose in textbooks, academic journals and several thousand page, several hundred year old classics, it is easy to forget the days when going to the library meant hearing the Lorax read out loud, or picking a stack of Bailey School Kids books to complete the summer reading challenge. Luckily we have the Stewart—soon to become Drake—community library to remind us that having your nose stuck in a book is a good thing.

Since Burling and Kistle fill the positions of town academic libraries, Stewart is able to focus on what it does best—fostering community. “It’s more than just books. Community center is really how we envision it,” Monique Shore ’90, Systems Administrator, said. “We make a very conscientious effort to be friendly and inviting and helpful and nice.”

The library offers a variety of programming for school-age children, including multiple storytimes and special events that bring together stories, music, puzzles and crafts to support and inspire young readers. They also offer a weekly book delivery service to local retirement communities, ensuring everyone in Grinnell access to books—including Grinnell students.

“They come and read, you know, fun fiction. Stuff you don’t get much of,” Shore said. She noted that while many college students use the library (over 50 percent have cards—see graphic) there is always an influx right before a break when students come in to pick up audiobooks for their long travels.

Built in 1901, the library was designed and funded by Joel Stewart, a farmer, banker and state legislator. The floor of the main level is made of three-inch glass, and the shelves run straight through it. “It’s foggy, so you can’t look up somebody’s dress,” Shore said.

Such unique features will not go to waste, as the building will be inherited by the Grinnell Area Arts Council when the library moves into its new location during the month of October. The Stewart building will keep its name and be transformed into an arts center complete with a performance space and possibly a basement pottery studio with its own kiln.

The grand opening of the Drake library is scheduled for Nov. 2, and excitement at Stewart is palpable. And the best part about the new space is, well, space. The cozy little library has been so crowded for so long that for every new book added they had been forced to get rid of an older book. “We do regular weeding,” Shore said.

The library’s new home at 930 Park St. will allow some of the non-invasive weeds to stick around a little longer, and hopefully allow for the planting of more new literary flowers as well. “We always wish we had more,” Lorna Caulkins, library director said, “but it’s a good collection.”

Caulkins, who is in charge of selecting which titles will be added to the collection, uses specialized library review journals, requests from the public and her own excellent judgment to make decisions. “We have a big emphasis on our children’s collection,” Caulkins said. “We have to respond to all of the fevers,” she added, justifying the library’s multiple copies of the Twilight series.

Other more Iowa-specific fevers hit the library each year thanks to the All Iowa Reads program,, in which each year a statewide committee chooses a book that all Iowans are encouraged to read and discuss. This year’s selection is “The Rope Walk” by Carrie Brown, a coming of age story documenting a pivotal summer in the life of 10-year-old New England small town girl.

If there is any place to get book recommendations, it is from a librarian. “I’ve been reading a lot of things on astronomy,” Shore said. Shore is preparing herself for the traveling NASA astronomy exhibit that the Drake library will be hosting this winter. “Grinnell will be the last stop on its tour.” Caulkins is currently enjoying the novel “Jayber Crow” by Wendell Berry (from which the popular indie-folk band gets its name).

Perhaps the old adage “you are what you eat” could more aptly be applied to what you read. Out of curiosity, we thought we’d put this theory to the test and see what Stewart library’s readership says about Grinnell. But then again, maybe we shouldn’t read too much into it.

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