Reaching the Goal: Patrick County library raises money for new bookmobile

1 Rick Ward.jpg


STUART – After less than a year and a half of fundraising, Patrick County will soon be getting a new bookmobile.

On Wednesday, Blue Ridge Regional Library System (BRRL) Director Rick Ward announced that the library has raised the necessary funds to purchase a new bookmobile to replace the current vehicle, which is approaching 20 years old and needs frequent repairs.

In an interview with the Martinsville Bulletin, Ward said that the new bookmobile will be about the same size as the current one, adding that he ordered the new vehicle on March 23. April 11 was the perfect day to announce the new bookmobile, he said, because it is National Bookmobile Day.

The new vehicle, which will be custom-built by Moroney Bookmobiles of Worcester, Mass., will cost a little more than $182,000. The bookmobile fund currently totals about $188,000, Ward added.

Due to the amount of work that goes into assembling a custom bookmobile, Ward said, it will be a little while before the new vehicle rolls into Patrick County. Hopefully, he said, it will be delivered around December or January.

Even though the new bookmobile has been ordered, Ward said, BRRL is going to keep the bookmobile fund open and continue to accept donations. Those donations will be used to cover any needed repairs on the new vehicle, he said, and one day – many years from now – may be used to purchase another new bookmobile.

In his comments to the members of various library boards who attended the announcement, Ward thanked the Patrick County Board of Supervisors for its large contribution to the bookmobile fund; Patrick County Administrator Tom Rose; former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles, who offered support and guidance; Beth Macy and Martin Clark, who spoke at a “Writing the Region” bookmobile fundraiser at the Reynolds Homestead which raised more than $10,000; the BRRL Board of Trustees; the Foundation Board; BRRL staff; and Janet Demiray and Linda Wilson, who are both on the Foundation Board and the Board of Trustees.

“Back in 2005, (Patrick County Library Branch Manager and former bookmobile driver) Garry Clifton started a bookmobile fund with a patron donation of $140,” Ward said. “Many donated over the years. When I was here, we had a former bookmobile driver, Bill Staples, who passed away. They asked in his funeral arrangements for people to make donations to the bookmobile fund. We gathered about $1,200 from that. In May of 2016, (former bookmobile driver) Cecil Holland … contacted Diane Adkins, who is the retired director of the Pittsylvania County library system, and she had raised funds to buy a bookmobile there. (Holland) asked her if she could come up and give us some advice on how to do it here.”

Under Adkins’ guidance, on Nov. 29, 2016 – “Giving Tuesday” – the library system kicked off a concerted effort to raise funds for the bookmobile, Ward said, and less than a year and a half later, the community’s support has made the dream of a new bookmobile a reality.

The importance of the bookmobile

At the Wednesday announcement, Clifton underscored how important the bookmobile is to so many in Patrick County.

“As a former bookmobile driver for 20 years, I just want to remind everyone that we are here not just to celebrate the purchase of a new vehicle, but to affirm our commitment to the continuation of much-needed service in Patrick County, a service that has spanned 70 years and served countless people in our community,” he said.

Clifton used the examples of former Virginia Governor Gerald Baliles and artist Rachel Nabors, two Patrick County residents who cite the bookmobile’s influence in making them who they are today.

“The service that provided books to a little boy on an isolated farm igniting his curiosity to explore the wonders of the world, and in the process, led him on a journey to become the governor of Virginia,” Clifton said. “The service that half a century later helped a little girl find the books and information she needed to create her own comic books and a webpage as a platform for her art. Her storytelling skills developed into an award-winning web comic, and she now travels internationally as a much sought-out speaker on web animations. Both of these individuals credit our bookmobile service with providing the key that unlocked the world for them. Think of all the other lives, numbering in the thousands, which have been positively impacted by the Patrick County Bookmobile over the last 70 years. Now, I want you to think about all the lives that will be served during the life of this new bookmobile.”

Following the announcement, Janet Demiray said that she has been astounded by the level of support from the community, from teachers who encourage their students to hold bookmobile fundraisers to readers who attend book sales and tell the librarian to keep the change on a $20 bill and add it to the bookmobile fund.


Janet Demiray, who is on both the Blue Ridge Regional Library Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board, cuts a bookmobile-themed cake at Wednesday's announcement. 

Ben Williams

“I grew up in the Stuart library, practically, and although I never used the bookmobile because I live right in Stuart, if I had not had those books, I don’t think I would have survived junior high,” Demiray said. “I can see these kids who come to the bookmobile whose eyes light up when they get those books. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what we want to do. To know that this service will go on, that all the schools will get this service, that all the adult readers who have difficulty getting into town to get to the library will get the books they love … that community connection will continue.”

Tom Rose said that the $35,000 that the Patrick County Board of Supervisors voted to give the library for the bookmobile may have helped inspire others to donate to the project.

“It keeps alive a long-standing tradition of being able to circulate books through different districts,” Rose said. “Our county is large. It’s 483 square miles. … This gives folks in the community who perhaps can’t travel, or can’t travel very far, an opportunity to take advantage of the library.”

Linda Wilson said that when Diane Adkins said the fundraiser could be completed in about a year, she wasn’t sure if she believed it.

“Then it kind of became ‘the little engine that could,’” Wilson said. “It’s just been amazing. You think you can’t do it, and then all of a sudden, it comes together.”

“We’re in absolute admiration for the staff, the foundation, all of the people that worked to raise money,” said Margaret Caldwell of the BRRL Board of Trustees. “There are a lot of people who worked very, very hard that I admire greatly. I’m just so excited that it came together so quickly. Having participated in some fundraising efforts and volunteer coordination before, this has been remarkable, and it just shows the level of support the community has for the bookmobile.”

Beth Clark, a first grade teacher at Stuart Elementary School, said that Patrick County elementary school students have held two different fundraisers to raise money for the new bookmobile.

“The bookmobile gives them real-world experience, being able to go into the bookmobile and choose any book they want,” she said. “It develops their imagination, or gives them information on a specific topic they’re interested in.”

A couple of years ago when the current bookmobile was in need of repairs and was out of commission for several weeks, Clark said, she learned first-hand just how much students love the bookmobile.

“I almost thought my kids were going to have a mutiny,” she said. “They love getting their books. … It’s so rewarding to see their excitement and their love of learning.”

Ben R. Williams reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at

RACHEL THE GREAT (Patrick County native, Rachel Nabors) donates profits from online courses to the Bookmobile Fund!


Rachel Nabors

Rachel Nabors, a former resident of Patrick County, recently made a donation to the bookmobile fund.  As a Microsoft employee, her company matched her donation. (Your employer may do the same.  It is a great way to double your donation to the bookmobile fund.  Contact us for more information.)  

Rachel's donation, along with several other donations in December, added over $10,000 to the fund and has us very close to our goal.

We want to thank Rachel for her support and congratulate her on her success.  As she herself says in the write up below, she wouldn't be where she is now without the services of the Patrick County Library and Bookmobile.  Your support of the library and the bookmobile really does change lives!

Let's Keep Reading Rolling in Patrick County!

Rachel Nabors grew up in Meadows of Dan, where she began telling stories online as a teenager with her award-winning web comics ( Her love of interaction on the web transformed into a career in web development, where she has worked with tech companies from Mozilla to Microsoft to shape what web browsers can do and has even written a book on designing with animation. She can often be found traveling the world, giving talks and kissing puppies!

"A handful of things changed my life growing up, and most of them came from my local library. I learned to create my first website on my library's computers—when I was in town. Being home schooled in rural Virginia made it hard to visit the library regularly, though. But the Patrick County Bookmobile brought all the books I needed and like-minded companionship every other week. I can't imagine what my life would be like today without it.

Working in tech, I see how fast the world is moving. I see the changes coming years before they will be felt where I grew up. Now more than ever education will determine a person's success as an adult. The Bookmobile spreads necessary media for parents to teach their children, for us all to keep up in an ever-changing world. I've donated a collection of timeless books on web technologies from my publisher to the library's collection to ensure that anyone who wants to can learn to do what I do. And the Bookmobile will see to it that no matter where that person is, they have access to that crucial information.

The Bookmobile is about community, it's about access. Let's keep reading rolling in Patrick County!"


Donating profits this weekend to my hometown Bookmobile

24 November 2017 | 0 Comments


Use BLACKFRIDAY2017 and get 50% off both my CSS animation and cartooning courses! 100% of proceeds from this sale go to buy a new Bookmobile for my hometown.

What’s this all about?

I’ve been very fortunate this year: completing my first year at Microsoft, publishing my first technical book Animation at Work, living my dream of giving a keynote in Munich in a dirndl (yes, really, that happened!) alongside super amazing smart people. I feel very lucky.

But I couldn’t have gotten here on my own. I like to say that three things changed my life:

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provided computers and internet access to rural libraries (like mine).
  • for shipping niche technical books and supplies to an area of the country that had no access to these things.
  • And my local Bookmobile, for bringing me books and human contact from my youth through my adulthood.

And now’s the time to focus on that last one: My old Bookmobile needs help. After years of service it needs replacing, and the library has started a fundraiser for it. They need some help getting across that finish line, and I want to help.

That’s why from now till the end of Cyber Monday, all of my online courses are 50% off and I will donate 100% of the profits to the Bookmobile fund. What’s more, Microsoft has a generous matching program:

For every dollar you spend on my CSS Animations and cartooning courses, Microsoft will match my donation 100%.

Get in on this!

Help me help the Bookmobile “keep reading rolling“ in Patrick County, Virginia!

 Rachel on the bookmobile, back in the day.

Rachel on the bookmobile, back in the day.


Richard S. Reynolds Foundation Awards Bookmobile Fund $20,000 Grant

Fundraising for purchase of a new bookmobile for the Patrick County Branch Library just received a big boost, with the announcement of a $20,000 grant from the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation.  The grant will go to the Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation, the library system’s charitable partner organization, to aid in purchase of a new vehicle to replace the beloved but aging bookmobile that serves all of the county’s elementary schools and communities.  A fundraising drive for a new vehicle was launched one year ago, and thus far has put together $134,000 in funding from local government, donations from individuals, businesses and community groups, and proceeds from fundraising events.  The addition of the Reynolds Foundation grant brings the total to $154,000, moving the project significantly closer to its goal of $185,000.  It is hoped that the new bookmobile will be purchased and put in service before the end of 2018.

The Richmond-based Richard S. Reynolds Foundation was established in 1955 by Julia Louise Reynolds, to carry on the legacy of her husband, the founder of the Reynolds Metals Company.  The foundation has provided over $50 million in grants to community and worldwide organizations, supporting a broad range of causes in areas such as science, education, healthcare, the environment and the arts.   In earlier grant cycles, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation has given grants to the Patrick County Education Foundation and to the Virginia Tech Foundation for projects at the Reynolds Homestead.   The Blue Ridge Regional Library Foundation was set up in 2014 to raise money for special projects and capital spending needs for the library system that serves Patrick and Henry Counties and the City of Martinsville.  The bookmobile project is its first major fundraising effort.

WRITING OUR REGION Learning the Tools: Authors talk about their process at Homestead

The Martinsville Bulletin   October 4, 2017   By Holly Kozelsky

Writing Our Region.jpg

CRITZ – A writer should keep on plowing through, despite regular rejection, with a scheduled practice of his craft.

That was the general advice of New York Times bestselling authors Beth Macy and Martin Clark during Saturday night’s author talk at the Reynolds Homestead.

It also was a rare topic of conversation that did not generate knee-slapping laughter. The program “Writing Our Region: An Evening with New York Times Best-Selling Authors Beth Macy and Martin Clark,” by the Blue Ridge Regional Library (BRRL) Foundation, moved along quickly with quips and humorous anecdotes that kept the audience chuckling.

The author talk

Bulletin reporter Ben Williams moderated the talk with New York Times bestselling authors Beth Macy and Martin Clark. They are “two celebrated writers who tell the stories of our region to the world,” Ward said.

Macy has written two nonfiction books, “Truevine” and “Factory Man,” and Clark has written novels: “The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living,” “Plain Heathen Mischief,” “The Legal Limit” and “The Jezebel Remedy.”

In addition to writing for the Martinsville Bulletin, Williams has had two plays produced, has written novels and performs readings and stand-up comedy in the Roanoke area. He is a 2007 graduate of Roanoke College.

The first question Williams asked was what book first sparked their interest in reading.

Macy said it was “Harriet the Spy,” when she was in fourth grade. Harriet “gave me the idea it was OK to kind of sit on the sidelines” and observe what was going on around her. Clark said that a book list in Aubrey Davis’s class “hooked me on reading,” but his biggest early thrill in reading came from a book he and his friends read at Tom Burnett’s house when they were in sixth or seventh grade. “It was full of profanity … and we thought it was the greatest thing in the world,” he laughed.

The authors talked about literary heroes they had met: columnist Anna Quinlan, for Macy; and Larry Brown (“Dirty Work,” “Big Bad Love”) for Clark.

Williams asked the writers to talk about their experiences with having their writing rejected. Both said that being turned down is a major part of being a professional writer. Macy said she remembers the negative responses from publishers more than she remembers the positive.

She added that despite frequent rejections – including one from the Washington Post, which said, “the funny thing about humor is it’s got to make me laugh” – “I just keep throwing things up on the wall and see if they stick. Your skin gets tougher.”

Clark said he got rejection letters for 20 years before he had a book to be published – and he’s kept every one of them. He read portions of them to the audience, including one from literary agent Ruth Cantor: “People just won’t put up with this sort of writing, and editors know it.”

The books of both writers are full of local people. Macy interviewed many people, and often on touchy subjects, for “Factory Man.” Clark pops local folks in for short roles in his books.

Coy Young, a barber in Bassett, “gave me a lot of material … and he was kind of worked about” how people would react to Macy’s digging around and reporting what went on. “He actually had me really worried” about how what the response to her would be.

After the book came out, “the people in Bassett were really nice. Some were upset, and I tried to hear them out,” she said.

It took her 25 years to convince a main source of “Truevine” to work with her, she said, and “she never said she liked the book.”

Clark said he doesn’t worry about people’s responses to being named in his book because he always gives positive roles to real people. He only has asked one person beforehand, Melvin Stanley, if it was OK to use a character named Melvin Harrell, who has many similarities to Stanley, and Stanley agreed, he said.

Both writers said that writing is a discipline that must be followed regularly. Clark starts each day writing from 6-7 a.m. Then he goes to his job as a circuit court judge.

Macy said, “I just sit down in my chair” for a full day’s work on her books each day. She explained that, with non-fiction books, writers first submit a proposal to a publisher, and that proposal alone takes three to four months to write. Once a proposed book is accepted, a non-fiction writer gets an advance payment, then two to four other payments until the book is finished. “I never take a day off, because I’m spending that advance” and has a responsibility to the book and the publisher, she added.

The book Macy is working on now is “Doctors, Dealers and the Drugmakers that Addicted America,” which should be out in August. It’s timely, she said, because “there’s a lot of fatigue out there dealing with this issue” of people being addicted to prescription drugs. Clark is writing “The Substitution Order,” which one editor described as being “like ‘Many Aspects’ all grown up.” He’ll send it to the publisher in March or April, he said, and it will be out a year later.

They concluded with their advice to aspiring writers. Macy said she learned that a good interview is a conversation rather than a list of questions, and also to “just be yourself” in writing style.

“Just write,” Clark said. “It’s a job, and you do it every day. … All the talent won’t do you a bit of good” without the discipline to follow it through.

After the talk, a few people in the audience gave comments. One of them was Dana Wade, the grandson of Pete and Gracie Wade, a couple who had worked for Mr. and Mrs. John Bassett as chauffer and maid and who were interviewed for “Factory Man.”

Wade said he as he read the book, he remembered the things it mentioned. “It brings tears to my eyes, so many good memories. They (the Bassetts) were good people. They provided for so many families in Bassett. They helped me along as a child.”

Wade said he worked in the furniture factories during his breaks from college, and laughed that “it made we want to get an education.”

Baliles asked the writers why they write.

Macy said she enjoyed writing since she was in high school, and her favorite stories are those which tell the experiences of people who normally are overlooked.

“I just like it,” Clark said.

Raising money

The event was a fundraiser for the purchase of a new bookmobile for Patrick County.

BRRL Executive Director Rick Ward also introduced Former Gov. Gerald L. Baliles (1986-1990), saying he is “a native son and major supporter” of the library.

Baliles is a 1967 graduate of U.Va.’s School of Law, and he is active on numerous boards. He helped found the Patrick County Education Foundation and was instrumental in establishing the New College Institute in Martinsville. As governor, he created commissions on education, world trade and child care, raised teacher’s salaries to within $400 of the national average and, in 1986, he hosted the nation’s governors in Charlottesville for President George H.W. Bush’s summit on education.

When he was a boy, “I would escape from farm chores to visit the Bookmobile,” Baliles said. “I still remember some of those books, and I remember the librarian, Ms. Lady Clark. She believed in reading” and the importance of everyone having access to books.

Clark encouraged him to read, Baliles said, even above his reading level. It “helped awaken my curiosity” of the world around Patrick County.

“From this fortunate beginning I worked my way through college and law school,” he said.

He was lucky that two major dreams of his came true, in large part thanks to the foundation reading gave him: “visiting and working in places around the world that I read about in Patrick County. For me it all started with the Patrick County Bookmobile.”

He said that the bookmobile program is more than 70 years old, and the Bookmobile goes to every part of Patrick County; last year it received 9,000 patron visits which accounted for a third of the total circulation in Patrick County; and “when the 19-year-old Bookmobile is in the shop” for weeks or months at a time waiting on repairs, “the county’s citizens, especially its children, are without the opportunity to continue reading.”

“The next time that the creaky Bookmobile has a breakdown, it may not be able to be put on the road safely,” he said.

A new bookmobile will cost around $185,000, and “it’s simply not possible to count on the county government alone to (fund) such a big ticket item,” he said. As of last week, $125,000 has been raised for it, he said, encouraging attendees to continue giving.

More funding may come through two grants which are in the application phase, the Richard S. Reynolds Foundation and the USDA, he said.

“Everyone has the same conviction: the 71-year service of the library’s Bookmobile should not perish from Patrick County,” Baliles said. The area’s children of today should have the same opportunities as the previous generations of children did, he added.

Holly Kozelsky reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at


 Martin Clark, author of The Jezebel Remedy.

Martin Clark, author of The Jezebel Remedy.

Local author and judge, Martin Clark is having an auction on Facebook to help raise money for the bookmobile fund.  Martin will match the highest bid up to $1500.

(Click on the link at the end of this post to bid.)

Happy Bidding!

KEEP THE BOOKMOBILE ROLLING: (CURRENT HIGH BID is $250.) The Patrick County Public Library is raising money to replace the bookmobile. Deana and I are auctioning off the following items—as one lot—to help with the effort: 1) a signed, immaculate first edition of the late Pat Conroy’s MY READING LIFE (estimated value $100); 2) a signed Dale Earnhardt, Sr. hat (estimated value $125); 3) a signed ZZ Top poster (estimated value $40); 4) a signed copy of Darrell Waltrip’s book DW: A LIFETIME GOING AROUND IN CIRCLES (estimated value $45); 5) a framed, original, and absolutely beautiful Greg Arens painting (estimated value $225); 6) signed copies of my four books (value $75); 7) a really cool 1:24 scale collectible Wood Brothers 21 HOF car signed by the four original Wood Brothers (two of whom are HOF), Len Wood, Eddie Wood and Trevor Bayne (estimated value $300); and 8) a galley of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK with an authenticating note from the publisher FS&G (estimated value: unknown. This is a unique and very valuable item—the book was made into an Academy Award winning film.). Please enter a bid below, and again, it’s one bid for everything—we can’t separate the items. Once the winner donates the money directly to the library, we’ll deliver the eight items to you, and then Deana and I will match the winning bid up to $1500 with our own donation. The auction is open until next Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 9:00 PM EST. Happy bidding and thanks for helping.

 Items for auction

Items for auction


We recently received this wonderful letter along with a donation to the bookmobile fund.  This library patron was using our bookmobile service over sixty years ago!

From a 77 year old fan:

I cannot remember a time during my early childhood when my sister and I were not read to by our parents, our grandparents and other family members.  The written word, read aloud, was a magical thing- the doorway to other worlds beyond our small country village upbringing.  Our father also liked to take my sister and me to the library in Stuart where he would choose books for his own reading as well as for us.

When we entered school, we could already read, or nearly so. One of the most exciting things that happened at school were the periodic visits of the bookmobile.  What a wonder it was- the library actually came to us!  It was a treat to pick out books to read for myself; how grownup I felt. "Miss Lady" Clark made a wonderful impression suggesting and helping to choose books she thought we children might enjoy.  Those bookmobile visits remained important all through my school years.  We had books at home, but the bookmobile expanded our choices even further.

Today the bookmobile serves whole communities that it visits.  What riches it brings in many forms- a wealth of knowledge, ideas, possibilities.  May our bookmobile service never cease.


The spread of knowledge through the mobility of books

Bookmobiles enjoy a rich history of providing "knowledge on wheels" and
"food for thought" to young and older readers alike, especially in rural
areas of America, Virginia and Patrick County. Much of my early
curiosity about the world beyond my own rural community stemmed from the
Patrick County Library's "welcomed wagon of books."

In my formative years, when my brother, Larry, and I lived at our
paternal grandparents' farm on Route 8, North of the County Seat of
Stuart, legend has it that our grandparents' home was the only private
residence where the Library's Bookmobile stopped for book checkouts, so
great was the number of books checked out on a monthly basis.
Apparently, there was a limit placed on the number of books checked out
by one individual on a monthly basis, so I enlisted my brother and a
friend to check out books that I wanted to read beyond the limit.  The
then librarian and bookmobile driver was the angelic Miss Lady Louise
Clark, who I've always suspected smiled and looked approvingly the other
way at such a voracious appetite for books. I've never forgotten that
experience of many years ago and the importance of public investments in
libraries and bookmobiles.

Years later, when I was serving as Governor of Virginia,  I made an
early, personal, financial contribution when plans were announced to
build a new Patrick County Library; and it was a pleasure to speak later
at the dedication of the County's new "temple of knowledge" and to
donate a world globe as a symbol to young readers that one can travel
the world through books without ever leaving home.

I still visit the County's Library and Museum occasionally when I'm
"back home." Perhaps on my next visit, I can "check out" the new

Under separate cover, I am sending my check in gratitude, and to support
the local efforts to purchase a new bookmobile for a new generation of

With kindest regards, I am

Gerald L. Baliles
Governor of Virginia (1986-90)

A New Story: Holland named Martinsville Library manager

HOLLY KOZELSKY-December 7 2016-   MARTINSVILLE BULLETIN  – Cecil Holland’s driving days are done.

Not only did she used to drive the bookmobile for the Stuart Branch Library – but she had to drive all the way from Martinsville to do it. Now as the branch manager of the Martinsville Library, she is just around the corner from her house.

She started as a library custodian in 1996. She became the assistant branch manager of the Ridgeway Library before going to the Stuart branch.

“I literally worked my way up” through the library system, Holland said. “We’re Blue Ridge Regional Library, and I’ve been across the libraries and seen it all,” she said.

She is where she wants to be.

“I’ve always loved libraries,” she said. “I’ve always been a reader. When we had mills, I used to work at Fieldcrest.”

She worked in the spinning department, which meant every half hour checking that the looms were operating correctly. When all were, it only took five minutes, leaving 25 minutes to read. She’d average a book a night, she said.

Reading is the gateway to much in life, she said: “If you can’t ready, you can’t do much of anything.”

She and her husband, James, have two daughters. Telisa Holland works at The Friends Home in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Lorisa Holland is a headhunter and artist in Seattle, Washington.

Though she spends her day in the library, she might be turning her home into one too, with the books she buys.

“My husband gets on me: ‘You work in a library. Why do you buy books?’” she laughed.

Some of her favorite fiction books have included the Harry Potter series, “The Girl on the Train” and books by Nicholas Sparks and Liane Moriaty. She recently finished reading “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lepena. “It really makes you think,” she said.

Her advice to getting children to read, and to enjoy reading, is simply to start them young – “and they will love it” their whole lives, she said.

Having young children visit the bookmobile was “the most fun” part of her job there, she said. Children generally were excited to visit it, especially during their first times.

“The people on the Bookmobile (route) were so passionate about the Bookmobile,” she said. “I want people in Henry County, Patrick County and Martinsville to be excited about their library.”

Her duties with the Bookmobile included reading reviews to order books. For some, she didn’t even need to bother with reading reviews – “‘Frozen’ was so big on the Bookmobile I tried to get every ‘Frozen’ book that came out,” she laughed.

The increasingly common use of the internet has taken its toll on books, she said. She can remember when there used to be three staff members working at a time in circulation, and a line in front of each. Now it’s common to see only one or two staff members and patrons at a time at the desk.

“The library offers a lot of stuff (besides books), and I’m not sure if people realize that:” DVDs, recorded music, learning kits for children, toys for toddlers, audiobooks, e-books and even fishing gear can be checked out. There also are play areas for children, as well as story time and other activities. “We have a great reference librarian, Randy Glover. He can find answers” to any questions people ask him, she added.

Holland said she would like to see it as a place where people share their crafts, either through demonstrations, displays, classes or simply regular gathering times, where they use a meeting room to work on projects together.

She also envisions having more programs sponsored by the library. “I would like to see programs that are working really well at the other branches come to each community,” she said.

“They say we’re like a community center now … and I think that’s a good thing, to get people together to share” their knowledge and abilities.

Her first actions as manager included to organize some deep cleaning. That started with the women’s bathroom, which she said she had noticed had a very bad permanent odor and needed to be tackled with some serious cleansers.

Next, she’ll look into coordinating some programs, including a recipe exchange.

“I want it to boom,” she said. “I want people to know that this is their community thing.”

Holly Kozelsky reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at

 Cecil Holland, former Bookmobile Coordinator at the Patrick Library is now the Branch Manager at the main branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.  Congratulations, Cecil!

Cecil Holland, former Bookmobile Coordinator at the Patrick Library is now the Branch Manager at the main branch of the Blue Ridge Regional Library.  Congratulations, Cecil!


Ben R. Williams

On Tuesday, I headed up to the Patrick County Library to do a story on the library’s fundraiser for a new bookmobile to serve the more far-flung parts of the county.

While I was interviewing my friend Garry Clifton, the branch manager at the library and a former bookmobile driver, he said something that stuck in my brain.

“Every reader can tell the story of the book that got them excited,” he said. “When they were a child in first, second, third or fourth grade, something ignited that interest in reading. That’s why the bookmobile is at the schools.”

I love books, and I well remember the first book that got me excited about reading.

Before I could even read, I was obsessed with books. I remember insisting that my mom read me “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle over and over again. It was a Bassett Library copy, and I checked it out so often that it probably spent more time at our home than in the library.

Then, of course, there was “The Bang Bang Family,” written and illustrated by famed weird cartoonist Gahan Wilson, whose work I still love dearly. “The Bang Bang Family” told the story of a ghoulish-looking family who were incapable of doing anything quietly. They bang-banged down the stairs and bang-banged the front door open and bang-banged their way to school and work. At the end of the book, after the Bang Bang Family have finally gone to bed, a mouse pokes his head out of hole in the baseboard and mutters, “Thank goodness that’s all over.” It was a killer punchline.

I made my dad read that one to me so often that, fearing for his sanity, he began hiding it around the house in hopes of having just one night where he didn’t have to read the phrase “bang-bang” 237 times (I always found it, though).

But the big one came when I was in first grade. I had only been reading on my own for a year or so, maybe less, and I decided it was time for a challenge.

While I was at the Martinsville Library, I checked out a copy of “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King. It was a hardback with the original artwork, probably a first edition. It may still be on the shelf today.

I expect the cover drew me in, a great piece of hand-painted artwork featuring the face of a hissing, green-eyed cat, and above the cat’s head, a shadowy figure carrying a body into a cemetery. I had probably also seen the commercials for the Stephen King Library that used to run on TV constantly in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (sign up today for a free glow-in-the-dark skeleton keychain, yours to keep, no matter what!).

I loved “Pet Sematary.” I read it at home, and I carried it with me to first grade every day so I could read it whenever I had some downtime. It probably took me two months to finish it – I hadn’t been reading too long, so a 400-page book was a major hill to climb – but the day I finished it, I took it back to the library and checked out another Stephen King book.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Hickson, saw how much I loved Stephen King, and she brought me a bunch of King paperbacks from home. I was thrilled.

I found out years later that another teacher once asked Mrs. Hickson why on earth she would encourage me to read such horrible, frightening things. She told that teacher that when you see a first-grader enthralled with reading, you encourage them, no matter what it is they want to read.

King was my gateway drug into the world of books. His books showed me the power of writing, and while I was still in elementary school, I started writing my own (terrible) horror short stories. Eventually, I got (marginally) better at writing, and I branched out into new authors.

If you trace the thread all the way back, you could argue that if it hadn’t been for that dog-eared copy of “Pet Sematary” in the Martinsville Library, I might have never decided to pursue a degree in English, and I might not have ended up in my chosen career path.

One thing is certain: It’s important to encourage young people to read, and they’ll never fall in love with reading if they don’t have easy access to books.

And so, after this Stephen King-style long-winded tangent, I encourage everyone to consider making a donation to the Patrick County Library Bookmobile Fund at

I also encourage the bookmobile coordinator to add a copy of “Pet Sematary” to the shelves. It still holds up.

Ben Williams writes for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at

Ben R. Williams reports for the Martinsville Bulletin. He can be reached at