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It took me a long time to write this article, mostly because I didn’t know what to say.

Every member of the Garrison Library Board has a unique talent. Words have always been “my thing.” So when the Garrison Library Board sat around in stunned silence on the evening of March 17, I knew that I would be writing yet another article to drum up support for the Restore Garrison’s Library Project.

You see, the Garrison Library Board had just met with the architects and the low-bid contractor, and it became painfully obvious that we were $60,000 short of starting our building project. We have until the first Monday in May to raise that amount of money. In cash. That’s when the Garrison Town Council meets to officially approve the start of the construction. The library board knows that it cannot proceed with the project unless the funds are secured. No loans. No tax levies. No bond issues. Garrison (population: 361) cannot and does not operate that way.

The Library Board has been struggling for the past 2 1/2 years since the windstorm to replace our library. Sometimes I am incredibly weary of and despairing of our re-building project. What can be said that hasn’t already been said? Who really cares? Do I really care?

As I writer, I knew I needed a fresh angle and a new focus. I needed something to garner some positive publicity. I needed something that would pluck your heartstrings and open your pocketbook.

-The Library was damaged beyond repair in a freak windstorm on July 11, 2011.

-The Library Board has raised $200,000 in grants and donations.

-The town of Garrison has pledged $100,000 in insurance money toward the new construction.

-The current library is operating out of a 120 square foot storeroom at a local church.

-The Garrison Library was started 40 years ago by concerned citizens who were afraid that the closing of Garrison Elementary would limit opportunities for the children in the community.

All of that is old, stale news. It has been repeated and re-printed, and frankly it can be a little tiresome.

Finally, one sleepless night, an idea formed in my mind . The awesome angle I had been searching for materialized. I felt I had found the focus to make you care.

Renee would be my angle.

Renee is a 4th grader who lives in Garrison. Last summer she won the top prize in the Garrison Summer Reading Program. Part of that prize was to participate in the groundbreaking of the new library.

I envisioned the headline: “Renee Is Ready To Dig Into The Next Chapter of the Garrison Library Story.” So clever! So attention-grabbing! I could interview her and take a photo of her, shovel in hand, on the building site.

So I did. I took the picture. I conducted the interview.

-Renee remembers going to the old library. She remembers her daddy carrying her to the basement when the storm struck. She thought the lightning and the sound of objects hitting her house was terrible. She was sad to find that her trampoline was smashed in the trees, but overjoyed that her outside kitties somehow survived. She thought the old library looked horrible, with its roof lying in the street and bricks thrown everywhere.

She only goes to the current library once in awhile. There just isn’t much there. She knows that Mary, the librarian, still stores most of the books in her basement.

Renee’s eyes shine at the possibilities of a new library: Story Time, a Butterfly Garden, a path to the Old Creamery Nature Trail, Movie Nights, Book Parties, Wii afternoons, Slumber Parties (she mentions “parties” at least a dozen times!) a Rainbow Loom Bracelet Class (she can teach me how). In fact, Renee has so many ideas for the new library that she promises to write them down in her journal and give them to Mary, who will in turn pass them on to me.

As I walked home from the interview and thought about everything Renee and I had talked about, it suddenly hit me. It hit me hard, and it made me humble. Renee is not an angle. She is not a focus or a publicity stunt, or a clever photo-op.

She is, very simply, a delightful, flesh-and-blood, little girl, who wishes that her beloved Arthur, Berenstain Bears, Ready Freddy (“Max is the meanest kid!”), and Franklin books were neatly lined up on the shelf at her local library (“like they used to be in the old building”), so she can get her reading skills up to where she wants them to be, because she’s kind of concerned about being in the orange level and would really like to move up to purple.

That’s it. That’s the purpose of the Garrison Library Building project boiled down to one little paragraph and one little girl.

And that’s enough for me to care again about re-building the library in Garrison. Actually, it’s quite more than enough.

How about you?

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:

Farmers Savings Bank and Trust

401 B Ave.

Vinton, IA 52349

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Comments (4)

Awesome Story! Christie what an eye opener! It's all about the children needing a place to dream. Best of luck on your fundraising.
From the Shellsburg Public Library
By: Julie Kimm on April 1st 5:55pm
What a wonderful article Christy! As a mother of a fourth grader and a preschooler, I cannot tell you how much this new library would mean to us. As a child growing up in Garrison, I also did the summer reading program through the library and loved it! I love the ideas that Renee has for the library! I would definitely volunteer!
By: Amanda (Schellhase) Erickson on April 1st 6:33pm
What an inspiration, Renee! Keep dreaming. . ."If you can dream it, you can do it!" ~ Walt Disney
By: Melody Snow on April 1st 9:21pm
You are talking about $160 a resident to get to $60,000. Pocket change.
.. Over a year that's a whole $16 a month....we're talking a whole dollar a day! Stop being so cheap!
By: David Pagel on April 3rd 2:27am

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