Friday, June 07, 2013

A library that matters --- plus a pair of transitions

Even though it's no longer officially Preservation Month, we're still out there tag-teaming on "This Place Matters" photos and it was my turn last evening to round up a few of the Chariton Free Public Library trustees and the librarian and take this shot for the record. Shown are (from left) Trustees Tim McGee, Sarah Davis, Ruth Comer (chair) and Jim Mefferd and Library Director Kris Murphy.

Chariton's beautifully maintained library dates from 1904, when the front part of the current building, shown here, was constructed. It was a Carnegie Library, funded in part by a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie, and designed by Chicago-based Patton & Miller (Normand Smith Patton and Grant C. Miller). If the library looks familiar, that's because its design became the prototype "Chariton Plan" for many Carnegies across the country.

Its central circulation desk allowed a librarian to keep an eye on everything that was going on because it faced the entrance and was open to large reading rooms on either side. The extremely high basement also allowed useful rooms on the lower level.

Although the building has been by now more than doubled in size, the major addition to the north mirrored the original building in design, materials --- even the tile roof --- so it remains a harmonious composition. That addition, a full two floors to the north, also allowed a ground-floor entrance from a parking lot, considerably more convenient that the original dizzying flight of front steps.


I turned in my Cerro Gordo County license plates yesterday and am now vehicularly a Lucas Countyan again. Iowa prudently expects motorists to get a lot of mileage out of their Prison Industries-produced plates and I'm not sure how old the former plates were --- but they had been around for a long time and had  served many many vehicles. In fact, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get the old rear plate off, but the bolts finally came loose. New plates arrived in the mail this year, a birthday surprise from the county treasurer.

My first Lucas County license plates announced where I was from to those familiar with the Iowa language with a big embossed number, "59," the alphabetical place of Lucas in the numerical sequence of our 99 counties. Wayne was "93" and Polk, "77" --- you always wanted to be able to recognize a driver from Polk County so you could take cover.

When the state decided to ditch that numbering system and impose something more uniform statewide there was a massive outcry --- how would we be able to tell where folks were from without that identifying number? The state relented and began printing county names on the plates --- a strip of tape on my former plates, printed directly on the current version.

Although some of the "vanity" versions of Iowa plates don't carry county names, most do --- so we can still recognize Polk County danger when we see it, categorize strangers on the square by license plate and capitalize on a great conversation-starter after running into another Iowa car in a Wyoming parking lot.


My neighbors, Lee and Bethel, auctioned off most of their household goods last evening while I was out running around --- deciding after an experimental winter that Northridge Assisted Living met their needs. Both are in good health, but also well into their 80s and challenged by a good-sized two-level house and large lawn. Lee also has lived most of his life with the aftereffects of wounds sustained during World War II that now are making it increasingly difficult to get around. We're all sad to see them go, but recognize the need.

They've been great neighbors. We differed about one thing only. I don't mind an aggressive ground cover we call "creeping charlie" around here. They considered it a work of the devil.

1 comment:

Cindi said...

Lee and Bethal will be greatly missed in our neighborhood. I have known them since they would pick my siblings and I up for church on Sunday mornings decades ago! I am sure our creeping Charlie is chuckling and feeling it has won! I will miss though, the view of Lee spraying all through the summer. All the while knowing he is NOT happy about my nice weedy lawn! It will be a different feeling if we get neighbors with children.