The Gladys Johnson Ritchie Public Library is a 501(c)3 which makes it unique among public libraries in Texas. There are only 14 libraries in Texas that have the distinction of serving cities and counties without being owned by those entities. You might ask why we are such -the answer is simple. In 1979 some forward thinking citizens, including Ms. Ritchie, wanted Jacksboro to have a larger, more modern library than the city or county alone could build. So several, including Ed Henry Stewart, Ralph Hammond, Leigh McGee, Ms. Ritchie, and many others, set out to seek the funds to build the building. The city led the way by appointing a board and promising to fund the library once it was a reality. The county followed suit with the school joining in last. The leadership and support of these government organizations met the criteria making the project accredited by the state as a member of the state library system. Ms. Ritchie grew tired of waiting for the funds to come in, and in late 1979, pledged the funds to complete the facility provided these governing entities would provide the monetary support. Thus, our small community received a facility far exceeding that of most communities of our size. The opening in 1980 included state and national lawmakers, as well as, many other noteworthy people.
Things went along well for the new facility until 2008-no one had to lose sleep over how the doors were going to stay open, how maintenance would take place, or how materials would be kept up to date. Then disaster set in, with first the school and then the city, reducing support. Today, the county is the primary source of support, with yet a new cut of an additional $15,000 or 3 months of non-support. Quite frankly, October, November, and December are looking very bleak. In addition, one air-conditioner unit is in need of a compressor; our security light in the back is not working; and our lawn sprinkler system ( which we only use occasionally to save shrubs) is also dead, probably an electric shortage. Our options are limited, but I don’t plan to let the library close, even for limited hours. Too many people depend on it being open daily.
Our usage has grown over the years, not declined as some who don’t use it would think. Many people without jobs, taking on-line classes, applying for jobs, searching for affordable insurance, or many other internet-wifi situations, can’t afford those services or their service is not strong enough to do those things at home. It is a known fact that children lose some or even much of what they learned the previous year, if their minds are not challenged by summer reading. Not every parent can afford to buy books all summer-a library card is free. Many of our senior citizens read 8 – 10 books a week and certainly can’t afford to purchase those books, but checking out books is free. We have hundreds of DVDs and some well-loved VHS – checking out movies is also free. There is a craze burning trails to Jacksboro from all over the United States, people chasing their roots to our small community. In one week alone, we had visitors from Oklahoma, Michigan, Ft. Worth, and Houston-none related-searching our genealogy department and newspapers, and seeking help from our volunteers and employees. The lady from Ft. Worth said our library held more answers than she had ever found in the much larger Ft. Worth Public Library.
Our library is what Ms. Ritchie and other library patriarchs dreamed of for our little community, but unfortunately, our monetary support has fallen off significantly. We could most certainly use your support and your help would be greatly appreciated. My staff and I do this for the look in the eyes of a small child who has just discovered books for the first time, the smile of a senior citizen as they walk out the door with this week’s bag of entertainment, the young family, out of a job whose television and internet have been turned off, who can check out movies or search on our computers for that next job, or the many who walk through our doors daily with questions or needing all kinds of help that even we can’t imagine. If those people had the money to support us completely, we wouldn’t need help, but unfortunately, they don’t.
If you choose us, you choose the citizens of our community.