Laura's Dream: big enough for a county to share
Sometimes a dream is so big it pulls a whole county into it. Such was the dream Hickman County librarian Laura Poole who envisioned a children's museum in Paducah. Funding wasn't forthcoming so that the Paducah dream was shelved.
When Laura began working at the Hickman County Library in 2013, she started again thinking about the children's museum. This one would be part of the library she managed and open without charge. She ran the idea by her friend, Ines, an architect. They brainstormed. Laura shared her idea with the library board. The board was first skeptical that sufficient funding for the ambitious project would materialize. But the more people heard about it, the idea took hold and help began coming from all directions.
The Hickman County Library is unique as the creation of the Hickman County Women's Club. In 1917 the Women's Club expanded a magazine sharing group into a library. The goal was to provide free reading materials. The small library is fully supported by the Women's Club which meets on the first floor.
At left: the red mailbox is actually a donated and repainted book drop.
The library receives no tax money. The small stipend that the State of Kentucky once gave to the library stopped in 2020. The library receives funding from Hickman County Fiscal Court and the City of Clinton, part of an inter-local agreement. State aid may have stopped but community support continues.
With support of the board, Laura started talking about her dream with family, friends, neighbors and local officials. Hickman County Economic Development Corporation Director Greg Pruitt and his group agreed to handle the funding. The HCEDC is a nonprofit corporation and donations are tax deductible. The HCEDC came up with over $245,000 in funding to get the project moving. Other funds came from the Women's Club fundraisers-selling t-shirts and muffins. Sponsors pledged to support exhibits. The Hickman County Fiscal Court pledged funds for the effort and continues to be supportive.
History, science, economics, and archeology of the region will be presented to young people interactively. The entrance to the library moved from the center of the building to the side. The large room will be filled with interest centers for young people to explore. Older visitors can look at the photos above exhibits and read the explanations.
The first stop is the archeology corner sponsored by Bank of the Heartland. Artifacts depicting Native American and Mound Builders cultures will be there for the digging. Photos and information on the county before its settlement. French and English explorers stopped and camped along the banks of the Mississippi River. The first name of Columbus was Iron Banks because French explorers thought the red clay contained iron. It didn't but the name stuck. Tosh Farms is sponsoring a math and art center with different artistic mediums, watercolor paints, chalk, ink and crayon for drawing and painting. Mathematics will also be featured with exercises in measurement and geometry.
Lumber Lovers, sponsored by Hickman County Rotary Club, will feature a tree with soft spaces for curling up and reading a good book or thinking good thoughts. Laura Poole said the beauty of Rotary's involvement is they will build the tree. Handymen Tom Pyron and Karl Buss met with her recently to come up with a building plan for the tree.
Hickman County is the largest producer of chickens in Kentucky. Clinton Bank is sponsoring the Wonderful World of Agriculture will let children play with stuffed animal baby chicks and plastic eggs in a child sized hen house.
Some centers do not yet have a named sponsor but Laura is confident they will have. Culture Corner will be a changing installation featuring regional and world cultures. It is the only center that is being brought from the old library.
At left, the large room is still under construction. The entrance to the library can be seen at left.
River Rats is a celebration of the county's relationship with the Mississippi River. Old Man River brought the first settlers and supplies jobs today. Repair of river barges by Ingram Barge employs skilled welders and other workers. Catching the invasive Asian Carp is paying off for local fisherman and promises to be bigger business in the future. Columbus Belmont Park is a popular site for picnicking and camping.
Teens will have a new place to use computers to access the internet. A larger section of the library will be available for them. Poole looks forward to students being in the library "I'd rather have them here than anywhere else after school." The facility is nearing the end of heavy construction.
Final touches to the construction make an opening date sometime in the near future. Railings must be installed around walkways and the concreted outdoor area which can be used for programs in fine weather. There are mundane tasks left to do. Laura scheduled cleaning baseboards and getting shelves moved back into place. Putting books on those shelves will soon follow.
There will be a new circulation desk built by Amish craftsmen commissioned by Roy and Beverly Dale. Shown at left, the twin desk will allow two librarians to work side by side.
Whenever Laura Poole has put out a call, volunteers have stepped up to answer. Moving thousands of books and shelving looked daunting until county workers came and provided muscle and support. Roy Dale provided heating and air conditioning expertise she credits for saving the project thousands of dollars.
The facility will be open when the library is open. Groups can schedule visits at other times. There's no charge for use, following the philosophy of the Women's Club founders for culture to be free to all. Pictured below: Young Jack Poole in the youth library. Shelves at right will be restocked by volunteers.
What was once a dream in Paducah will soon be a reality in Clinton. "It wasn't meant to be there." Poole said. "It was meant to be here."