More Than Just Books

News from the Ocracoke School and Community Library

As the busy summer season winds down and the daylight get shorter, I thought it would be a change of pace to spot the place where I work as worthy paying a visit to  as any of the other parts of the island, a place where you can follow up and learn more about what you observe in nature. The Ocracoke and Community library serves both the school during its operating hours and the public weekday afternoons from 3 – 7pm (till 8pm on Wednesdays) and Saturday mornings 9am – 1pm.  Located on Back Road, it is across from the Ocracoke Coffee Shop and next to the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department. There are computers with Internet access along with Microsoft Word, Excel and Wi-Fi.  The public component is part of the BHM Regional Library system that serves Beaufort, Hyde and Martin Counties. Although the number of books and audio-visual works physically located in the library is much smaller, the BHM consortium provides access to approximately 125,000 books items. 

Speaking of size, the current library building was constructed in the mid-1990s. Ocracoke has had a library at the school house since the 1930s. In 1976, an 8’x 10’ one-room library was opened just behind the old firehouse and it housed about 3,000 volumes.  For years it was run by Marguerite Boos and gained a quite a bit of fame by being featured as the world’s smallest library in The Inside-Outside Book of Libraries, written by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Roxie Munro.

There are lots of reasons these days to visit the library. In addition to the books, there is a pretty good collection of DVD movies, lots of magazines including Consumer Reports, audio-visual materials for learning both Spanish and English, and preparatory materials for standardized tests such as the GED and SAT. The North Carolina Room has a diverse collection of books and documents that focus on   history, nature and fiction. Public documents are also located there.

One thing I learned soon after taking this position is this island loves mystery fiction. James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Michael Connelly and Lisa Scottoline are just some of the best-selling authors in the collections.

The Ocracoke Friends of the Library sponsors in the summer a used-book sale and provides financial support to the children’s Summer Reading Program as well as collection development and infrastructure. This fall and winter there will be evening activities such as the book club, a writers’ workshop and an Evening at the Library series. This program began last year and its debut could not have been better as former Ambassador Leonard Meeker recounted to a packed library an analysis of the government’s handling the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962.  Whereas on the evening of his lecture, the nation could watch a special on PBS or go to the Kennedy School of Government web site to see a special feature of it, those of us on Ocracoke got to hear a first-hand account of what went on in a meeting attended by the Kennedy administration’s top officials including Robert McNamara, Robert Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy and Mr. Meeker. We hope to have him back for another talk this fall as well as many more interesting programs and practical workshops such as tax preparation and how to research genealogy.

Since I usually write about topics of nature, especially wildlife, I’ll end on this theme. Last summer many remarked that the tree frogs which had been pretty much absent for a few years had returned. One afternoon, I opened up the book drop to retrieve items left overnight. I noticed a tree frog clinging to the side wall. I took it out and placed it in the bushes thinking I had rescued it from a dungeon. The next day three frogs were there and I figured they knew the “inside–outside" of book drops better than I did. Rumor has it that the book entitled The Frog Prince was a drop-off when they were there. 

September is the American Library Association's official Library Card Sign-up Month! If you haven't renewed your Ocracoke Library card in over a year, please stop by and get it done. Ocracoke residents (even part-time residents) can get a library card – just stop by during regular library hours.