Monday, October 21, 2013

Vignette of a rural Missouri library

Jennifer Davidson reports from Myrtle, Missouri, population 300 (give or take a few), near the Arkansas line in Oregon County.  Davidson's story features Rachel Reynolds Luster, the new librarian there, under the headline:  "Turning a Page Inside a Rural One-Room Library."  Here's an excerpt that's about Luster, yes, but also about rural libraries generally and their import to rural communities:
While the Myrtle library receives taxpayer money, it only gets $200 a month for books and supplies. So Luster has used social media to garner donations from people around the state. She's already secured about 1,000 new books. 
She's one of thousands of rural librarians trying to bring a sense of community, learning and connectedness to their isolated areas. The Institute of Museum and Library Services estimates that nearly half of America's public libraries are rural, and many of those are staffed by only one or two people. 
"Often, the library is the only place in a small community that people can go to access technology, to fill out job applications, to continue their learning," says Tena Hanson of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries. 
She says libraries in remote places are lifelines for rural communities, because the Internet doesn't always reach towns with rugged terrain.
Luster calls herself a curator, not just a librarian, and Davidson's story suggests Luster is trying to crank up the culture quotient in Myrtle.  Oregon County is a persistent poverty and low-employment county in the Ozarks.

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