When my cousin Tonia posted a thing on Facebook asking for people to help her set up a library for the communities of Watson, Mason, and Edgewood, I ignorantly signed on. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never been on a board for anything before, let alone start a board with strangers. Through meetings with these people that I didn’t know, we developed our ideas and set up WME Works with the idea to open our own library for the Watson, Mason, and Edgewood areas. Fundraisers, board meetings, and little free libraries ensued. Through 2 years our ideas flourished and book donations poured in. Suddenly we had a home for our library in the old Edgewood School. Out of nowhere it seemed we had bookshelves and a grand opening date. A summer reading program was planned. And we opened. Successfully. Our grassroots library that functions solely through the donations of others has patrons. And they keep coming back.
When I said I’d help with the library, I wanted to help with the books and the children. I wanted to keep books alive in an age of e-readers. I wanted the magic of unknown books and the spirit of a library for these communities south of Effingham that didn’t always have access to the library in Effingham.
Here we are, six plus months in. Patrons continue to come in. They continue to return books and check out new finds. We continue to get book donations. Our patrons and the communities that I previously knew nothing about keep supporting us.
When I envisioned helping open a library, I imagined getting lost in the books and growing my ever-expanding to-read list. I got that. But I got more. I didn’t expect my now nine-year old son to want to come with me every.single.time I said I was going to the library. He constantly drags his friends along, telling them “it’s fun, they have books, computers, games, and we set up a craft table!” I was not expecting my eleven-year old daughter to be so passionate about books we could now read side-by-side.
I’ve gotten to know those strangers sitting alongside me at the board meetings. The cousin that was previously just a poet and mother that I didn’t really know anything about has become a treasured friend. We bonded over countless hours of sorting through books while sharing our life stories. The communities that I didn’t know beforehand are more than just towns south of where I live. The lady at the post office has become one of our biggest supporters, showing up at our fundraisers and posting our hours on the bulletin board. I know patrons by name and by the bounce of the blonde ringlets who come in with them.
My family and I have become closer at this little grassroots library. My children have saved up their own money to purchase new DVD’s to donate. Beloved books and board games that sat on our shelves at home now have a new home at the library. I watched my son hand out water bottles for multiple hours at a triathlon in support of the library. My daughter was thrilled to help out at our Culver’s fundraiser where she handed out trays of food to the customers. They’ve not received anything for their help other than the satisfaction of a good day’s work and knowing they are helping a cause greater than their own. That husband of mine spent multiple hours moving tables and boxes of books for no reward.
I expected to donate time and spend hours shelving books. I didn’t expect to get to so much in return.
-Dawn Dunston, WME Board Member