The first libary collection I want to examine is that of my current home town of Albertville, Alabama, a town with a population upward of 20,000. It’s the largest city in Marshall County, which has a population estimated at over 87,000. Its culture is deeply rural, deeply religious, and deeply Southern. And it’s a hunting, fishing, farming type of rural. The primary employers are poultry producers and processing plants. About a 20% of the people between 35-44 yrs of age have a college education, and about 20% of them never finished high school. I expect most have only read poetry when forced to in school.
So the seven shelves housing the poetry & poetry criticism collection at the Albertville Public Library is somewhat encouraging. On cursory inspection, there are some signs of health, mostly in odd items that catch my eye: Rodney Jones, Charles Simic, Jewel. These are not poets I would have expected to find here. The first two add diversity to the collection and the third is an appeal to teenagers that I think is worthwhile (even before I’ve looked at it).
Albertville reports that its overall collection numbers about 80,000 volumes. When I searched 811 in their catalog, it brought up 327 items. The only ones actually checked out are those I took for review. All of the others are lost/stolen with due dates mostly in the 1990s. The people “keeping” the library’s books have pretty good taste. They’ve kept volumes of Dickinson, Frost, and Walt Whitman, as well as Poe, and Shel Silverstein. Unfortunately, they’re depleting the library of some essential poets to have on its shelves.
Two of the books I checked out for review had never been checked out before, so it’s no wonder the library clerk shrugged off my question about how many books I could check out. There just isn’t a lot of competition for books of poetry.
With one exception, I’ve started pulling the poetry alphabetically. I’ve brought home 7 volumes, accidentally grabbing two by the same poet. It’s been a fun assortment to peruse. I’ll begin reporting on them individually in my next few blogs.