Chico Mayor J.D. Clark began shelving books at the local library when he was just 10 years old, and as a community leader, he has continued to support and promote it.
His longtime ties to the Chico Public Library came full circle Thursday night when he received the 2013 Small Community Library Advocate of the Year from the Texas Library Association and Small Communities Library Round Table (SCLRT).
“I don’t remember not going to the library,” Clark said. “It’s just something my mom instilled in me. Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money, and that’s how I got to go places – through books.”
Clark said he and his best friend rode their bikes to the town square on summer afternoons, first visiting the drugstore for a milkshake or soda and then dropping in at the library to help out.
“So we were two kids, down there working,” he said.
Clark’s support has continued as an adult. He has assisted with summer reading programs, hosted a Reading Challenge for youth and put together a list of his favorite books to promote reading and encourage a discussion – not to mention his administrative support as the city’s mayor.
He said last year he was able to give the library a slight funding increase, and he tries to help address any physical needs such as structural repairs.
“They’re moving and shaking down there, and I want to make sure they have all the tools they can get,” he said.
Chico librarian Michelle Slonaker, who is also secretary of SCLRT, said it’s the first time the award has been given. The idea came about while the group was discussing community advocates and she brought up Clark’s support.
“We thought (the award) would be a good way to recognize when people in the community advocate for the library and appreciate its value,” she said.
“Small library,” as defined by SCLRT, is one that serves a population under 25,000. To qualify for nomination, the advocate must have contributed to the library in one of the following ways:
- in some way have advocated for the benefit of a small library;
- played an instrumental role in fundraising efforts to benefit a small library; or
- contributed significantly to a small library through volunteerism.
Slonaker nominated Clark for the award.
Clark said in some communities, libraries are left to fend for themselves. In Chico the library is recognized as not only as a good place to find a book, but also as an important economic development tool for the town.
Through English language software and GED prep, it’s important to workforce development, he said, and the library houses information valuable to people considering opening small businesses.
“It’s about more than reading fiction,” he said. “It’s really an economic development tool, and our library has grown so much and now has so many resources.
“It’s a quality-of-life issue and a place where people are learning and sharing.”
Clark received the award Thursday night at an SCLRT reception in downtown San Antonio during the TLA conference.
Slonaker received a Milestone Award from the University of North Texas PEARL Project during this week’s convention. The award, presented Wednesday, included $1,000 for the library. Read more in an upcoming issue of the Messenger.