With all the noise, confusion and clatter of everyday life, where can people go to enjoy a peaceful few hours, while brushing up on their literary skills? Even with the near dominance of computer technology, the Internet, iPhones, iPads, and an assortment of other home-based gadgetry, the brick and mortar library is still attracting a good percentage of bibliophiles in every community.
Those neat little sanctuaries located in towns and cities across the country have played a critical role in the educational environment of every generation since the first library was founded in Boston, Massachusetts by Benjamin Franklin in 1731. About a hundred years ago, when I was going to college, the local library was my home away from home. Existing within those stately walls was a codified system of history, math, geography and every other imaginable subject, including an abundance of esoteric pursuits for those who simply want to lose themselves trying to unravel the mysteries of the world.
Sue Ridnour was born in Marshfield, Wisconsin and moved to Flower Mound in 1986. Ms. Ridnour has been the Director of Library Services in Flower Mound since March 2013. “Marshfield’s claim to fame is that it has the world’s largest round barn at Fairgrounds Park,” she said. “As a child I loved the library. My dad was a fireman and my mom was a bookkeeper. We spent a lot of time at the library, and when I got to high school I got a job in the library.” However, Sue said she wasn’t very happy about it when she was assigned to “shelf read” on Saturday mornings after being out with other teenage friends on Friday nights. “I had to come in at 9 a.m. and walk up and down the aisles looking for books that were out of order on the shelves,” she added with a frown. “I was surprised they didn’t find me asleep on the floor. I began to think, if this is library work, I don’t want to do it,” she smiled. After attending the University of Wisconsin, she, like a lot of young grads, wondered what she wanted to do with her life.
After a brief stint in journalism, which increased her thirst for knowledge, she moved to Flower Mound and began getting involved in community work. Gary Sims, Flower Mound Library Executive Director of Community Services, appointed Sue to her current position. After interviewing Sue it was easy to realize why she was chosen. She not only has a scholarly grasp of literature, but she has the amiable personality of someone who truly loves imparting knowledge to others.
“Some people ask why we still need libraries when there are so many ways to get information on the Internet. Well, have you ever tried to figure out the multiplicity of directions being offered on the Web? Unless you’re well versed on ‘surfing the net’ you might have more than a little difficulty obtaining what you seek. There’s no organizational scheme for all that info, so, people often come in and ask for help with Internet searches and other explorations into cyberspace. We have the skills to handle more complicated searches, and we provide the advice and training for free,” she said with a level of assurance that comes from having the experience.
Obviously well-organized, Sue arrived for the interview with an amalgam of facts and figures. My wife Annette and I learned that there are 29,389 FM residents with library cards. Another 11,000 cards are registered to other Denton County residents (Because the FM library accepts funds from Denton County, they serve all residents). “People who live in smaller areas like Argyle, Bartonville and Lantana, that don’t have their own library, can use ours,” Sue said. “By the way, the number of FM cardholders is about 43% of our population, which is actually high. Across the country, if a city or town hits 35% of their population, they feel like they’re doing very well. Keep in mind, you’re never going to get 100% because there are many households where the mom or dad has a card, but they may have four children that use the parents’ cards. So, to hit 43% is excellent and it says a lot about the level of education in the area,” she said proudly.
“My husband and I remember when the library was on Churchill in that little building in Westchester Park. It wasn’t much more than a set of old encyclopedias and a few old books,” she reminisced. Today, the library at 3030 Broadmoor Lane has 25,000 square feet of resources, from books, videos, audio books, newspapers, computers and study rooms. The budget is just under $1.4 million, and, according to Sue’s exact data, has 104,482 books on the shelves. “That translates to 1.5 books per capita, which barely meets the states library standard, which is 1.5,” she said. Sue says they can always use more books and she’d like to have 3 per capita. “As a Flower Mound resident, I want my library to be the best,” she added.
In addition to traditional funding the FM library has received help from other local groups, among them the Friends of the Flower Mound Library (FFML). “They are great! They have funded a lot of things that we wouldn’t have had the money to do otherwise, including sending me to a conference this year that was just so wonderful with information that I needed to know about. They have paid for a big screen TV in the Teen Area where we can use slides to let them know what activities are available. They get their funding through book sales. Ann Martin is the President and they meet quarterly. The book sale is their big activity and the money goes to purchase additional books. FFML also does a lot of volunteer work.”
Talking with Sue Ridnour inspired me to spend more time in the library. When I asked her how modern technology has changed the way library services are viewed, she had a thoughtful response: “What I like to think about is that every new technology that emerges doesn’t replace the old technology, but it changes it, or adds to it. For example, people thought television was going to do away with the movies. That didn’t happen! It changed the movies by adding ratings for language and nudity that you couldn’t show on television. Yet, movies are as big as ever and television has expanded to include an almost infinite number of channels. Some have said that eBooks are going to make print books go away. They may change some of the methods of distribution, but that doesn’t mean regular books will disappear. I was looking at our eBook distribution the other day and it was only about 5%. People still do like to hold a book in their hands,” she said confidently. I couldn’t agree more.
Incidentally, the library is located at 3030 Broadmoor Ln, Flower Mound, TX 75022. Hours are Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Phone: 972-874-6200.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.