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WNC Native Gloria Houston Releases Book Honoring All Local Librarians


Gloria Houston’s New Book is dedicated to all Librarians through the Life of Miss Dorothy Thomas who brought the World to the Doors of Mountain Readers.

"Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile," new release from HarperCollins Publishers, honors all librarians, those “who bring the world to our doors. . . “ as it recounts the life and work of a woman who brought library services to a small corner of northwestern North Carolina. Recently named as an Independent Bookseller’s "Inspired Recommendations for Kids," the book is distributed internationally through HarperCollins, New York. Houston is also the author of The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, an American Library Association Best Book of the Decade, still in hardcover after 23 years.

Gloria Houston, western North Carolina native and critically acclaimed author of picture books and novels for young readers, joined forces again with Susan Condi Lamb, who also illustrated MY GREAT AUNT ARIZONA, to create the world of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties in relating how the regional library system began with one Boston trained librarian and one small panel truck. Dorothy Thomas and her first bookmobile are remembered fondly by readers throughout the region as the library system celebrates its 50th anniversary with the release of this book.

A Canadian by birth, Dorothy Thomas was a resident of Celo, where she initially stored books donated by local readers in her basement, carrying them up and down the steps each day to load the bookmobile until a library building was available. Neighbors who knew her there shared their memories with Lamb and Houston.

An earlier bookmobile in the region, believed to be the first in the nation, albeit drawn by oxen and horses, had existed in the 1880’s, when Dr. Wing, an MIT professor living in Mitchell County for several years, shared his personal library with local readers by leaving wooden boxes of books at community gathering places. When he returned to Massachusetts, he wrote to friends that he did not lose a single book through his generosity to his western North Carolina neighbors.

When Dorothy Thomas, Helen Erickson and other readers joined forces to make books available to their neighbors through the bookmobile, they used Dr. Wing as their role model. In one of the few areas still served by bookmobiles, the three county area enjoys rolling library services currently.

Generations of readers who were affected by their gift to the local communities shared their memories during the research for the book. Dr. Daniel Barron, current director of the regional library system and former Director of the School of Library and Information Study at the University of South Carolina, remembers riding with Ms. Dorothy during summer vacations. He mentions her great influence on him and his future careers. His mother, Mary Lee Barron, later drove the bookmobile in Mitchell County and served as school librarian for small elementary schools in the northern end of the county, also influenced by Dorothy Thomas.

Theresa Colletta, who was director of the regional library system, remembers Ms. Thomas fondly as do so many others. The late Iva Dee Vance, who drove the bookmobile in Avery County for several years, had collected articles about Ms. Dorothy and her work in the region from Life Magazine and other publications, which she lent to the author. The late Barbara Davenport, portrayed as a character in the book, shared her memories of later serving as an assistant to Mr. Thomas in Avery County. Barbara, a paraplegic, was not allowed to attend public schools in her wheelchair, so she said that Ms. Dorothy brought the world to her door, one of two patrons who provided the theme for the book.

James Byrd, who later served as Special Projects Director for the regional library system and as children’s literature professor at Mars Hill, remembers waiting eagerly with a toe sack to fill with books for the bookmobile to round the curve near his house. Air Force pilot Bennett Harding in sharing his memories of the influence of Ms. Thomas on his life, also helped to provide the theme for the book. . . that she brought the world to his door, so he went out to see it for himself.

Autographed and inscribed books are available at the email addresses: [email protected] and at [email protected]. Books are also available at The Muses in Morganton until the end of March, at other local bookstores, and they will be available at the Orchard at Altapass when it opens in the spring.

(Image provided by HarperCollins Publishers.)

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