As a contemporary romance author, my research is different from historical authors. For the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy, my research topics included seizure treatment/causes, service dogs and veterinarian office software. As a result, I don’t often come across cool historical tidbits to share with you the way Petticoats and Pistols historical authors often do. But recently, I came across a Facebook post about librarians on horseback. Considering my love of books and horses, I couldn’t resist learning more.
The Pack Horse Library program was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration during The Depression. In 1930’s Kentucky, the unemployment rate was almost forty percent and around thirty percent of the state’s population was illiterate. The hope was The Pack Horse Library program would decrease both these statistics. In addition to these issues, the ten thousand square foot area of eastern Kentucky this program served lagged behind other areas in the state in terms of electricity and highways. Scarcity of food, education and few economic options compounded the problems.
Getting the program’s employees to these rugged, rural areas of The Appalachian Mountains where people with the greatest need lived proved challenging, too. Because of the terrain, horses were chosen as the mode of transportation. However, the most astounding aspect of the program was that most of the employees of The Pack Horse Library were women! Folks simply referred to them as “Book Women.”
After loading donated books, magazines and newspapers, these librarians set out on their own mules or horses and headed into the mountains. Not an easy task, even when the weather cooperated. But imagine how difficult and treacherous the trip had to be in snowy or rainy conditions. Often the terrain became so rugged or remote, even horses couldn’t travel, forcing the librarians to continue on foot, carrying the books! No matter how cold or bad the weather, these librarians persisted, covering one hundred to one hundred twenty miles a week. One librarian had to complete her eighteen-mile route on foot after her mule died. Now that’s dedication!
By 1936, these devoted librarians serviced over fifty-thousand families and one-hundred-fifty-five schools. But these women did more than provide books. They acted as a connection between these rural Kentucky communities and world. They tried to fill book requests, read to people who couldn’t read themselves, and fostered a sense of local pride. And all for a salary of twenty-eight dollars a month.
The Pack Horse Library program ended in 1943 along with the WPA. War had pulled the country out of The Depression, but these strong, determined librarians had left their mark. They made a difference.
To be entered for the drawing to win a copy of Colorado Rescue, a looking sharp wine glass and the bracelet pictured, tell me what you love about libraries or share your favorite memory involving a library.