All librarians, everywhere, throughout history. And, to choose just one group among them, I give you -
The Pack Horse Librarians
A big, bony, rangy horse, a long-legged bob-haired woman, a jaunty hat, and a heroic mission.
During the Great Depression in the United States of America, there were some areas that were even worse hit than others, and the Appalachians was one of those. As part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration), the government set up the Pack Horse Library Project, an initiative that hired women to take library books by horse or mule or by foot into the isolated, hard-to-reach farms and schools of rural Kentucky.* They were paid about $28. a month. They provided their own horses or mules, and carried approximately 100 books at a time deep into the mountains.
These Book Ladies were feeding a strong appetite for books and for literacy.
"'Bring me a book to read,' is the cry of every child as he runs to meet the librarian with whom he has become acquainted," wrote one Pack Horse Library supervisor. "Not a certain book, but any kind of book. The child has read none of them." (Smithsonian Magazine)
As a contemporary reporter wrote:
What was said about Postal Workers applies equally well to the Packsaddle Librarians, that "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed these couriers" of reading who traveled several hundred miles a week over a 10,000 square mile area which was long on mountains and short on roads. The project ran from 1935 to 1943, when the funding was stopped. (You don't need me to point out any parallels.)
Across time, I have a link (perhaps tenuous but a link nonetheless) with the man stuck in bed with a shotgun wound all those years ago. We're both thankful to the heroism (whether horse-related or not) of librarians - the way they have changed our lives for the better - and the irreplaceable comfort of books.
Librarians - we salute you.
* Not for nothing were there place names like Hell-for-Sartin Creek, Black Gnat, Cutshin and, er, Monkey's Eyebrow.
Joan Lennon's website.
Joan Lennon's blog.