Library a labor of love

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

LAUREL FORK — The Laurel Fork community library may be the first that measured its books in pounds.

That's because an early summer move drove home the weightiness of its collection. Organizer Annetta Stanley estimated the books would tip the scales at more than 5,000 pounds.

That's about 3,000 books total.

A Laurel Fork native who lived in North Carolina until her return to the area about nine years ago, Stanley actually Freecycled her way into creating a community library.

Answering a post on a local freecycle.org Web group promoting sharing and reusing goods, Stanley found a wealth of resources in a Wytheville woman's basement.

The woman explained that her daughter had operated a used book store, and she was trying to clear out the old merchandise.

Boxes of books filled that basement. The only stipulation to getting free stuff was Stanley couldn't browse and cherry-pick but had to load up the entire box.

Luckily, she had a hand truck and a roomy vehicle. She left there with 23 large boxes that day.

Stanley stopped at Nester's Store and started talking to Rogene Nester, and they mused over the idea that Stanley had gotten enough books to start a library.

Nester added the idea that there was a vacant space where the old fire department building was.

With space to store the books and more donations coming in, shelves became the library's biggest issue for a time.

That was four years ago, and Stanley found that the community got behind the idea.

Tommy Brown, who had bought the old fire station and community building, let the library stay in the old office, until he needed it for another business earlier this year.

After giving a talk to a community senior citizens club, the library got two more dedicated volunteers in Betty Jean Hayes and Janice McDonald.

Carroll Cardin built some bookshelves.

When the library had to move early last summer, Jimmy Goad let it set up in his building, where Flortec used to be.

"He had shelving, which helped us a lot," she said. "Shelving is an ever-present need."

There are informal plans for the library to move again.

The library is loosely associated with Laurel Fork Community Inc., and Stanley is a member on the board of directors.

No funds are available now, but the group hopes to have the library at the new community center complex where the old Laurel Fork school used to stand.

The first home there may be temporary. "We are making plans to have something up there."

Stanley described herself as an avid reader who always loved books.

As a parent with three children, a volunteer with Laurel Fork 4-H and at school, she has less time to read.

But, on Saturdays, Stanley still gets to work with books, checking them out to community members at the grassroots library.

"I figure one of these days the kids will grow up and I'll get to read all these books," she joked, motioning to the shelves.

The checkout process is easy, she said. A patron comes in, selects what they want and leaves a name and phone number.

Patrons can keep the book as long as they like, and if another person wants the same book, one of the volunteers can give the borrower a call.

Some patrons don't even have to come to the library to check out a book, because Stanley has an outreach effort to Heritage Hall Laurel Meadows.

On Thursdays, she takes two boxes of books there for both residents and employees to choose from.

In the ailing economy, the demand for library services has gone up, Stanley said. She hopes that lawmakers will continue to support public library services, because the free exchange of ideas is a cornerstone of liberty.

"Without that, how does a democracy even work?" she said.

As far as the Laurel Fork library goes, it has no budget — volunteers buy the kerosene for their heater out of their own pockets to keep the library toasty on winter days.

But that's the way it goes when you want to provide your own community with library services. "It's a labor of love, basically," Stanley said.

• For more information about the Laurel Fork library, call Stanley at (276) 398-3560.