Benson Memorial Library, Libraries

Plant a Garden

This week we installed a new native species pollinator garden on the alley side of my library. Expanding and enriching the space outside and around our building has always been on my to do list, but when you have quite a to do list in front of you sometimes you set things aside for later. This is one of those projects. I still have quite a to do list in front of me at the library, but this year just felt like the right time for this garden.

What’s a pollinator garden you ask? A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects. What makes me the most happiest about this garden is that all of these plants are native to Pennsylvania and will attract butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds native to the garden.

What did we plant in the space? Here’s a list:

  • Annabelle Hydrangea
  • Borage
  • Bee Balm
  • Tiger Lilies
  • Violets
  • Creeping Butte
  • Blazing Stars
  • Creeping Buttercups
  • Milkweeds
  • Day Lilies
  • Coneflowers
  • Spicebushes
  • Columbine

Many thanks to Carolyne Frycke and Haley Hoenke for their work in designing and planting our Pollinator Garden. Without them, this project would not have happened.

I think it is important for libraries to not only take care of what’s inside the library, but also to consider taking care of what’s outside of the library as well. My hope is that this garden, its purpose, the plants that live in it, and the various pollinators that visit it will educate our community about the importance of gardens and pollination. And you know what else? It’s gonna be so beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

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Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Titusville, PA

“May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber at the Benson Memorial Library, May 2018

 

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In the month of May the Benson Memorial Library is proudly displaying the poem “May 31, 1944,” by Isabella Leitner and illustrated by Gus Leiber in the Wentz Reading Room at the Benson Memorial Library. Many thanks to Lynn Cressman of the Titusville School District Board of Directors for arranging this for our library. I love it when public libraries are filled with art, and even more so when a small rural library like ours has a chance to bring a wonderful work by a internationally known artist to their community. Libraries are great connectors, and in this case we’re connecting our community to not only some great art but also to an important subject matter. I hope to do more of this kind of stuff for Titusville, PA while I’m the director here.

PRESS RELEASE
“May 29, 1944, the day after Isabella Katz’s twenty-third birthday, she, along with her family and all the Jews in the ghetto in Kisvarda, Hungary, were rounded up by the Nazis, loaded into rail cars, and transported to Auschwitz. Her mother and younger sister were immediately gassed upon arrival at the camp. Three of her siblings survived their days in Auschwitz by supporting each other with determination. Her father managed to get to the United States and tried to obtain visas for them. Eventually she was reunited with her father, who, although he had escaped the concentration camp, lived the remainder of his life feeling he had let his family down. Isabella used her experience to write two accounts, Fragments of Isabella and The Big Lie.

Titusville native Gus Leiber has, in his modern style, illustrated a poem by Isabella Leitner entitled “May 31, 1944,” which is the day she arrived in Auschwitz. This poem hits very close to home because Gus’s wife, Judy, a Hungarian, was at one time on the list to be sent to the concentration camps. Instead, a friend added Judy’s name, as well as her sister’s and mother’s names, to the schuss pass (travel pass). A teenager, Tommy Baroth, hunted until he found a typewriter whose font matched the type on the schuss pass. He carefully added “and family,” to Mr. Peto’s pass, saving the family from a horrible fate. Tom and his sister Agnes reside in New York City today.

Sadly, both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away Saturday, April 28th within six hours of each other. Their art and love will be missed by many. Read their obituary here.

The poem by Isabella Leitner, “May 31, 1944,” illustrated by Gus Leiber is on display from May 1 until May 31 in the Wentz Reading Room at Benson Memorial Library. The public is invited to visit the library to see this special exhibit.”

Gus Leiber

ABOUT Gerson “Gus” Leiber (1921-2018)
Gerson Leiber, of the Titusville High School Class of 1939, was a Modernist painter who resided in New York City with his wife, Judith. As a student in Titusville, he showed great artistic promise; however, WWII took him to Hungary, where he met his future wife, Judith Peto, who was a handbag master. Upon the conclusion of the war, they moved to New York City, where Gerson attended art school while Judith pursued the design and creation of handbags. She eventually founded Judith Leiber, Inc., creating exquisite handbags, ranging from alligator leather bags to dazzling beaded clutches.

Mr. Leiber has exhibited in over 300 national and international exhibitions as well as 20 one-man exhibitions. He is past president of the Society of American Graphic Artists and a member of the Audubon Artists, the National Academy of Design and the Art Student’s League. He is also the recipient of many awards, including Tiffany Fellowships in 1957 and 1960.

Several years ago, Mr. Leiber donated a considerable number of his art books to the Titusville High School library for student use, furnishing the library with a fine collection. He followed with a piece of his own entitled The Smoking Man, as well as high quality prints of the work of Rembrandt and Albrecht Dürer, and a Picasso portfolio. He went on to purchase a collection of Japanese prints by artists Kunisada and Hiroshi for study and display at THS. He has also donated beautiful collections of Persian miniatures and French prints of various subjects.

Currently we have approximately fourteen different collections by different artists. We hope to use this artwork to help educate students and give the entire community a chance to experience very different types of artwork. Both Gus and Judy Leiber passed away on Saturday, April 28th, 2018. For all of the Leibers’ contributions we are deeply and sincerely grateful.

Leitner Leiber Display

Read more about The Leiber Museum here

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy

The Fabric of Our Families: Our journey in Local History & Genealogy Services

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Local History & Genealogy services were definitely not on my mind when I arrived at the Benson Memorial Library in 2015. To me, those services were something that local historical societies excelled in, not the public library. I have, like most things, been proven wrong the more time went on and this wasn’t any different. What I discovered shortly after I arrived in Titusville was that not only was this something that this public library excelled at but it was something that was much needed in this community. From that point forward, Local History & Genealogy services became one of the main focuses as I lead the Benson Memorial Library towards the future.

Almost one year ago my library hired a full time Historian. With this position, the goal was to expand these Local History & Genealogy services to a wider audience. And in that year, we’ve done quite a bit. NWPA Stories was started and in one year had 5,799 views, pretty great for a niche blog in a time where many people consider blogging to be dead. NWPA Stories was an important step for our library. Instead of the library being a place that connected individuals to the stories, the library became a place that researches, writes, and shares these stories. One of the things I’ve always found amazing about blogging is that when you write and share via a blog that you’re basically your own publisher, so in a way our library became a niche publisher when NWPA Stories began in 2016.

You can read more about this specific project here: Blogging at the Library

The next step was to expand our services beyond the traditional obituary listings and complete microfilm collection of our local newspaper. While that stuff still has tremendous worth and value (and is still very much utilized by our guests), we wanted to expand. That expansion meant taking what I consider to be a big step in genealogy with our subscription to Ancestry Library Edition. There’s now not a day that goes by where I hear a staff member talk about census records or some other amazing find that they came across in Ancestry. We’ve also been able to expand our programs at the library and now host 1-2 evening workshops where people can learn more about the service.

You can read more about this specific project here: A Neat Local History & Genealogy Story.

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This brings me to our latest project, a Photo Scanning Station, a VHS Conversion Station, and the seeds of a hopefully robust Digital Local History Collection. This concept and idea isn’t new by any means (The Memory Lab at DC Public Libraries is the first example of this that jumps out in my head). It is a tried and true idea to offer these tools to users in public libraries. Where it stands out to me is in how it gives a rural small town with a rich local history a chance to be a part of that history. The best parts of history come from the stories that we all share. It is through those stories that we all learn the little nuances that come with every family or every community. History is so much more when it comes from the heart, and what better way to get at that heart than through working directly with your community members. Our Historian Jessica Hilburn really hit home when she said this to me: “At the Benson Memorial Library, history isn’t just an abstract concept, but the fabric of our families”. The library is the place where we can grow our families and learn more about them. In turn, we build a stronger community because our roots become stronger. That’s why having these digitization stations at our library are so important. They’re building the future of this community by better connecting us to our past.

You can read more about this specific project here: Building a Digital Local History Collection Together.

 

Benson Memorial Library, Libraries, Local History & Genealogy, Titusville, PA

Blogging at the Library (yes, it’s still very important)

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The piece “Origins of the Dick Kraffert Pool at Burgess Park, Titusville” by Jess Hilburn, originally written for a library blog and then republished in a local newspaper, the Titusville Herald.

Before we start, let me clear things up: you are not reading a blog post from sometime between 2001-2007. This blog post was written on June 22, 2017. Why am I saying that to start? Well because if you’re reading this you may have been told that “blogging is dead” and that the “library blog scene” is irrelevant. My aim with this piece is to show you otherwise. The word “blog” or “blogging” is dead but that’s a good thing. Blogs and blogging was always just writing and publishing with a hip new fancy name attached to it. The “blog” switched the power from the big publishers and news agencies and gave it to the people. (for the rest of this piece, I’ll continue to use the word “blog” when I refer to the written words I am talking about but honestly its all just words and information)

Here’s a great example from my library (Benson Memorial Library) on why I believe why libraries should continue to write and share information with their communities. A few months ago, our Historian Jess Hilburn started up a blog called NWPA Stories (Northwestern Pennsylvania Stories). As our Historian, Jess digs up a lot of interesting stories about individuals and events in our community.

One of the recent discussions happening in our community was the possible closing of our swimming pool, the Dick Kraffert Pool. As with every story, there are two sides to this one. Over the last few years the pool has fell into disrepair and has been losing money. The City of Titusville operates the pool, and like the pool the city has been losing money due to declining industry in the area and lower tax returns every year. These are the things that are happening in small town American. On the other side, there is a community full of individuals who want the pool to stay open and remain an option for all local residents. It’s a tough issue and we’re not here to discuss the pros and cons, but now you’re basically all caught up on the story.

This is where the library comes in. With all of the discussion happening around the Dick Kraffert Pool, one thing was missing: what’s the history behind all of this? How did the pool start, what was the pool like back in the day, and who the heck is Dick Kraffert?  This is where Jess Hilburn comes in. As our Historian, finding out this kind of stuff and sharing it with our local community is one of big “to-do’s” on Jess’s job responsibilities list. A library historian isn’t just there to find out stuff for individuals who have research requests. A great library historian shares the research and history that they’re digging up with everyone in the community. I believe that when community members are engaged and informed about their past, they can make solid decisions about the future that contribute to a stronger today. This is that example in action.

After publishing the post and sharing it via the library Facebook page, we quickly noticed it was resonating with the community. According to Facebook stats, the piece has had a reach of 4,607, has been shared 72 times, and has 23 likes on the original post. There were plenty of positive comments on the piece….and that’s when the local newspaper the Titusville Herald messaged us (once again, on Facebook). They asked for permission to reprint Jess’s work in the next issue of the Herald, scheduled to be published tomorrow. Our only request was that they add the “Editor’s Note” that you see in the photo of the piece above).

Why’d we do this? As I said above, it is all about sharing and informing community members about the past that surrounds them. The Titusville Herald is an excellent newspaper that is read by many of our community members. Increasing exposure to our local history, especially when that exposure originates from the public library, is a great thing. It provides our community with a better understanding of their surroundings, it increases exposure to the library, and it further cements us as a local organization dedicated to providing all citizens with quality information.

Here’s the link to the original piece as it appears on NWPA Stories

The next time someone tells you that blogging is dead, try to remember this example which I just shared. The act of writing and sharing information will never die no matter what it is called. Libraries: learn, research, share, and connect. This is what you do.