Pinky Pie

Larceny, generosity, the La Crosse Public Library & Me

Posted on: November 24, 2010

Before I admit my larceny, I have to say that I love the La Crosse Public Library. It is a friendly, inviting place that has been recognized at times as the Library of the Year in the state of Wisconsin.

The staff members are always eager to find materials and to even get them upon request once I heard about them – usually on Public Radio.

Its Archives Department, which received the 2010 Governor’s Archives Award winners for archival achievement, has me spoiled. It has collected and organized many historic documents and makes it easy to access them.

I am spoiled because I think that other libraries in the country offer this same service and they do not. As a personal historian, the ability to locate materials is very important.

And how can I not love a library led by a director who dresses up as a one of the Pearl Street ladies of yesteryear. These “working women” have a long history in La Crosse from when the town was a rough and tumbled river town.

Now for the generosity:  A couple weeks ago, the library held its 8th annual Give-A-Gift Annual Fundraising Event.  “The way the library described the event on its website was:

“It was a magical evening – the library was transformed into a holiday winter wonderland, people came out in their best duds and bling, appetizers were appetited, people mingled and chatted and refreshments were quaffed.  Amidst all this, people of all ages selected and purchased books for the library from among the hundreds of books on display.”

We wondered around, found books that appealed to us in some way or another, and wrote out checks. We get a bookplate with our name and message – if we wish – in the back. Refreshments were served, but they were not the motivation.

In that one night, donors sponsored $14,000 in the materials on display in the library. That was $2,000 more than was raised last year at the 7th annual event.

I chose some books that related to history – such as a collection of letters from African Americans and a book of remembrances of the 1920s. Dick chose one about Hmong settlement in the Midwest.

We paid for them and then wondered into the children’s portion of the library and felt that there were not enough people in that section. So I found a couple children’s books to sponsor, including one that is about Muslim children. My nameplate for that one was “Welcome to our community.”

And another was about a sleepover at Grandma’s. That one had a bookplate that just says for future grandchildren. Nothing in the works, but a gal can dream.

What I loved about the event is seeing grandparents picking out books that they thought their grandkids would love and apparently when they do, they like seeing their names in these donated books.

I overheard one asking another, “Is this for Meredith?”

“No. This one is for me.”

And now for the larceny: When our kids were little, we checked out a book called The Hobyahs.  It was wonderfully cute and a little scary old English fairy tale that begins this way in one version:

Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived with an old man and woman and their five dogs in a tiny house by a forest. Deep in the forest lived goblins called the Hobyahs, who plotted against the people in the tiny house. The faithful dogs kept the Hobyahs away, but their barking kept the old man awake, and he chased them off one by one. Now there was no one to protect the people in the tiny house when the Hobyahs came creeping out of the woods in the dead of night”

The Hobyahs frequently say something like, “Look me! Look me!”

And that reminds me of all the times that I forced my mom to watch me in indoor swimming lesson. Later, I realized what a great sacrifice it was when I had to sit in a steaming, indoor pool watching my kids.

Back at the Hobyahs, my kids loved it so much that we accidentally “lost” the book.

It was so long ago that I forgot about that “lost” book until thinking about this blog post.

We paid for that “lost book” so it is not complete larceny. And anyway, the statue of limitations has run out.

And I hope I have redeemed myself by buying those books for the library.

I suspect the library director will suggest I will not stay redeemed unless I come back next year and the year after for the 9th annual and subsequent events. And I shall.

“Look, me! Look, me!”

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2 Responses to "Larceny, generosity, the La Crosse Public Library & Me"

Thief! Scoundrel! I hope you at least still have the book.
Actually, we’re not so good about keeping track of our library books, having lost several (and never knowing what happened to them) and I occasionally wonder how much I’ve totaled in fines over the years. Likely more than enough to pay for a multitude of books.
PS The director is great, I agree. Such enthusiasm for everything.

Give a Gift at Library is always so very special as is the Library Staff and Volunteers!
I enjoyed your story about the Hobyahs. Our family was in love with Russel and Lillian Hoban’s The Brute Family. (c.1966)
It was checked out so many times and I am sure collected many sticky fingerprints. We did not go in for a book getting “Lost”. We went to Honig’s Book store and bought a copy. Remember the only book store in town. It was a tall shelf of books in the back of their gift store.
That book is now lost in the passing of the years, but I think I will surprise my daughter with a copy to share with her kids. When ever a child is out of sorts, having a melt down or complaining, we remember the Brutes and their hobnail boots and their kicking and scratching!

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