"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Support Morris Public Library Foundation!

Melissa Yauk
First of all, let's emphasize that this coming Saturday, April 12, is Melissa Yauk's birthday. She's our Morris Public Library director. I don't know if she'll be there that day, but you might want to share best wishes sometime.
Melissa is a native of Wadsworth IL, located north of Chicago.
The Morris Public Library isn't standing pat with how it serves the public. Its board is working with an architectural firm to develop a "new vision" for the existing space that will incorporate collections, technology and community gathering spaces.
Very few of our institutions are standing pat these days. We are all responding to the transformative effects of technology. There was a time when some people predicted that libraries might wither on the vine because of technology. When you visit our library today, you sense it's more abuzz than ever.
A lot of the "buzz" comes from kids which is a mixed bag: I mean, it's wonderful that the library can be such a "family" place, but kids and their noise are not a nonstop pleasure for everyone.
I'm guessing library employees pull their hair out trying to enforce noise guidelines. They know that "quiet" is an ideal for many. However, realistically you are going to have to accommodate some conversing, sometimes at less-than-subdued levels.
Libraries went through an adjustment years ago when audible conversations became tolerated. This was in contrast to the old Carnegie Library atmosphere in Morris when I was a kid. There, the iconic Margaret Grove presided and would "shush" us if we didn't absolutely whisper. It was a real treat to see our current library display Margaret's high school graduation photo from way back when. We all loved Margaret even when she humbled us.
Kids were disciplined with a more stern eye back then. Society later softened up as we realized we maybe should nurture kids a little before they got drafted and sent off to Viet Nam to be killed.
There was a time when, if you caught hell at school you'd catch hell from your parents when you got home, then a new era took hold when if you caught hell at school, your parents would turn their fire on the teacher. Libraries too reflected the change in tone of our culture. They "lightened up."
 
Mixed bag for library policy
Today, as someone who uses the library regularly, I have noticed that the staff applies "discipline" on a sort of arbitrary basis, to send a "message" that there continues to be expectations. One person will be reprimanded for answering his cellphone without going to the entryway. Then I'll see someone else blatantly launch a cellphone conversation with impunity.
One library employee told me with great exasperation one day that a patron had complained about audible conversing among library staff. I remember the late Wally Behm and Don Fellows, two regular patrons and supporters of the library, conversing with no attempt to lower their voices. Wally had a voice that could penetrate.
Back in my young adult years, I went to the Morris library mainly to consume magazines. Our changing media universe has shaken things up. I don't need to see the world through the eyes of some East Coast elite media writer. Today we have the Internet. The library has computers! We have a whole unlimited universe of news and opinion to wade through, gratis. As a kid I'd have to pinch myself (as if dreaming) to envision such a world.
"Time" and "Newsweek" filled their role once. In an earlier time, "Life" and "Look" magazines held forth before our "mass culture." We like having shared values as a culture. We in fact have niche interests. Today we live in communities of people of shared interests, those communities blossoming online among people who may never be physically near each other.
Some people feel as though this threatens churchgoing. I have mentioned the "doomsaying" about libraries. My old friend Glen Helberg, RIP, thought libraries were in trouble due to all the new tech means of getting info. Wrong-O.
I do personally believe that newspapers are in trouble. Newspapers have in fact been through a negative spiral. It has already happened. I would like to see Morris-centered news, information and commentary evolve to where it's all in an online-based ecosystem. We have seen steps toward this (as with "Friday Facts") but not as fast as I expected or wanted.
I don't feel old but writing about the Morris Public Library pushes me that way. Is it true that our library building is now 45 years old? Heck, I remember when it was shiny new. Margaret Grove's career carried over to the new building, which means she "crossed the tracks" from the Carnegie building (now the museum). It seemed curious seeing Margaret in the new building. She seemed so much more at home in the confined but charming space of the old Carnegie Library. The old library was a treasure measured by the standards of its times.
 
Armory was an east Morris edifice
I remember well the building that occupied the space where today we find our Morris Public Library. So much time has passed, I can't assume that everyone knows what building that was. It was the armory!
The old armory was a truly grand edifice and was a community hub just like today's library. There was a big gymnasium and a downstairs auditorium. I remember going to that auditorium and hearing a Boy Scout tell me all about Davey Crockett. I played elementary basketball in the gym under coach Marvin Laabs. Marvin was an elementary school teacher at a time when male teachers for that age level were a novelty.
I remember one of my female teachers - I'm not sure which one - who didn't like passing around those circulars advertising books for sale for kids. She strongly asserted that such purchases were not necessary, that "you can get all the books you need from the library." Bless her.
I did buy a few of those paperback books anyway, like "Up Periscope" and "Snow Treasure."
The first book I ever read, checked out through Margaret at the Carnegie building, was the tale of an anthropomorphic red-tail hawk named "Rufus." I took a liking to stories about anthropomorphic creatures.
 
Library opens on east side
It was in 1969 that the "new" Morris Public Library opened across from the Post Office and next to the Morris Sun Tribune building. Why on earth did the Sun Tribune have to leave that spot for its out of the way location on Pacific Avenue?
The library underwent a remodeling in 1999. But it still seems to be racing to catch up to expectations and standards. As someone who remembers the armory that once held forth there, in its brick splendor, I'm a little jarred reading about how dated our library is, how it comes up short of the recommended standards of today.
Then again, I remember when the Metrodome was "new" too, how it solved all our problems etc. Sheesh. Time marches on.
The library board is working with that architectural firm to keep the wheels of progress turning. The Morris Public Library Foundation has been formed to facilitate. It hopes to raise $35,000 by the end of the year to support the vision. As of March 1 the efforts have collected $20,000.
I submitted a check for $1,000 on behalf of my mother and I, as a memorial for my late father Ralph E. Williams. Please follow my example.
The library is a gem. I'd say Melissa is a gem too except some of you might get the wrong idea. I will assert she is competent. (There, that's a "safe" way of tipping the hat to her, right?)
"Although the library is supported by local tax dollars, we know that government resources are stretched thin," a Foundation flier reads. "We want our local library to remain exceptional."
The Morris Public Library Foundation is administered by West Central Initiative. You will get a nice letter from the Initiative if you make a generous contribution.
 
History tie-in with UMM
One final note: The property where the library sits has special importance for our family and the University of Minnesota-Morris. It was in the grand old armory, back in 1960, when UMM music gave its debut concert. It was November of 1960, the same month in which the nation elected JFK, that "the UMM band, dressed in its navy blue uniforms trimmed with maroon and gold," performed.
The quote is from the Morris newspaper. "Camelot" and UMM getting ushered in together. . .
We have heard through the years about the "disconnect" between the UMM campus and community, but on that November 5, UMM connected with community 100 per cent as my father Ralph directed those musicians in a concert for Stevens County 4-H youth and their parents! What an event! An audience of around 1000 was present. I can close my eyes and embrace the excitement that must have been felt.
"A band of this size was not anticipated the first year," the newspaper article stated, so kudos to my late father for all the recruiting and enthusiasm.
Two years later, Dad would take the UMM men's chorus to the Seattle World's Fair (a.k.a. Century 21 Exposition). Click on the permalink below to read a post I wrote about that venture. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course."
 
In 1964 I was along when the men's chorus took their spirited sound to the New York World's Fair. You may click on this permalink to read a 2012 post I wrote about that. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
 
My father appreciated public institutions. He'd be delighted we gave our little boost to the Morris Public Library Foundation. He is acknowledged as UMM music's founder on our family memorial at Summit Cemetery, a black bench on the open east end - the new section. Please stop by and visit sometime. Hum the "UMM Hymn."
Please follow our example in helping the Library Foundation. And, happy birthday to Melissa on 4/12.
 
Addendum: Fred Willard when he played "Jerry Hubbard" on the 1970s TV show "Fernwood 2nite," pointed out that many people say "libery" (without the middle "r" sound) instead of "library." Also, Lou Gelfand when he wrote the "ombudsman" column for the Star Tribune, made note of a typographical error common to newsrooms everywhere, and always prompting chuckles: "pubic" instead of "public." Hence, we might see an occasional reference to the "pubic library."
 
Addendum #2: We all sang "happy birthday" to Clarence "Kett" Ketterling at the Morris Senior Community Center today (Wednesday). Dr. Ketterling was most tickled that I remembered his campaign theme when he ran for Lions district governor: "A good bet with Doctor Kett." He won. He was a dentist in Morris. I had Dr. Jorgensen but I would have been equally blessed having "Dr. Kett" who had a daughter in my Morris High School Class of 1973: Colleen.
Sympathies to the family of Wanda Dagen on the death of her mother.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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