Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Telescope

March 29, 2014

Serving the community

Library employee takes pride in many years of public service

BLUEFIELD — Now considering retirement, one person who had given years to serving the people who come into the Craft Memorial Library is now thinking about what to do after years of serving the public.

Delois “Dee” Carter has worked at the library in downtown Bluefield for 30 years. She was born in Virginia, but her family was originally from McDowell County.

“I was originally born in Independence, Va., down on the farm, my grandparents’ farm,” Carter said. “That’s Grayson County. I didn’t grow up on the farm. I grew up in Bluefield, W.Va., but I used to go down on the farm every summer and I loved it. It was a great, big old farm. I really loved it. It was nice. I learned how to milk a cow, slop the hogs, and help my grandmother in the garden. It was fun.”

Her grandparents, Joe and Maude Gentry, were originally from McDowell County. Carter’s mother, Joanna, also called McDowell County home. She still thinks of the farm where she spent many of her summers while growing up.

“No, I haven’t been back in years,” Carter said. “They had to sell out to Appalachian (Power), and they bought a farm in Sparta, N.C.; and then we were going to visit, my uncle and I, but he passed before we could go. We were waiting for the fall because there are lots of snakes, every summer, but nobody ever got bitten.”

Carter started working at Craft Memorial back in 1982.

“I came in and I did the cataloging and the processing of the books,” she recalled. “One of the ladies who used to work here, her name was Lou Freeman, she told me about it. She used to work at JCPenney, too, and I saw her in the grocery store and she told me about it, and Luella Dye was the director then. She hired me. She was a very nice lady.”

Carter had a lot of experience working with the public already before she joined the library’s staff. In one way or another, she was serving the people of Mercer County. She worked with community services, then known as the department of welfare, for 13 years. Her duties included handling casework for senior citizens and low-income residents.

“And before that, I worked at Jimmy’s Restaurant,” she said, pointing away from the library. “It used to be right down here. I loved that. When I first started, I loved it so much, I didn’t want to do anything else. And I thought, ‘you’ve got to do something else.’ And I worked at Persinger’s, too.”

Carter also worked at a local hotel; again, her job involved serving the public. This time, she helped get people where they needed to go.

“And I also ran the elevator at the Millner Matz. I used to do that after school,” she said.

She ran an old-style elevator that required an operator; it did not have today’s self-service technology. Visitors would tell her which floor they wanted to go to, and she would take them either up or down to their destination.

“It wasn’t hard at all, except it would get stuck between the floors, and then the guys that worked there would have to come and get me,” Carter said. “That didn’t happen too often, but I enjoyed that, too.”

Carter enjoyed her previous jobs, but she also enjoys working with people who come to the library; they’re one of the reasons she has stayed with the library for 30 years. She also enjoys working with the books.

“The books come in, the new ones, and I put them out on the shelf,” she said. “I worked doing that till 2006, and then I started working in circulation, and I like that, too,” she said. “I would do circulation, too, when I first started, if somebody was sick.”

“I’m checking in books, checking out books, cleaning books, shelving books, giving out information. With Windex, we clean every book that comes in — just spray it and wipe it off. Most of them don’t get real dirty, but we clean them, anyway. I also used to go out with the bookmobile. I liked that, too. Just going out and meeting people in the community, so I’ve worked just about every aspect of the library.”

She also takes her library skills into her church.

“And I volunteer at my church’s library, Valley View Seventh Day Adventist Church. We have a school library, so I run that library too. I had to set it up because it had been sitting and sitting for months. All the other people had left, and one of the ladies asked me if I would do it. That’s been neat,” Carter said.

Serving the public is one of the best things about working at a public library, she said.

“I like being with people and helping them. A lot of people have problems, and I can say something to encourage them along the way. I’ve always liked being in public, and I like to read the books, too. I like a variety of books. I like mysteries, and a lot of nonfiction informational books,” Carter said.

Carter made many friends during her years at the library. She often suggests authors they might like to read, help them find a book and seek out other information.

“If I can’t tell them, I refer them to where they can go get it,” she said.

Many residents at the neighboring West Virginia Manor often visit the library to check out books as well as DVDs and videos. Besides offering books and movies, the library frequently has programs for children, teens and adults.

Carter said she still enjoys her work at the library, but she is thinking about retiring to spend more time with her family. Meanwhile, she will keep serving the public.

“We take books, too, if they’re not more than 10 years old,” she said. The next book sale is April 2 from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the library.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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