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Former resident helps Norman Library share love of reading

Wanda Lee Graves signs a $15,000 check which will be used to fund a grant for the Norman Area Library. Graves was born near Norman on Polk Creek Road and remembers visiting the library as a child. Pictured left to right: Shirly Eudy, Wanda Lee Graves, Jean Lybrand, Betty Williams, Mayor Rosanna Markham and Sue Robbins. Photo by Dewayne Holloway

MOUNT IDA – A generous gift recently presented to the Norman Public Library is proof you can take the girl out of Norman, but you can’t take Norman out of the girl.
Friday, March 15, Wanda Lee Graves and her niece Sheila (Graves) Johnson met with library volunteers to discuss the future of the library and to present a monetary gift in support of the library.
Wanda was born on Polk Creek Road near Norman in 1933 to Beulah Bean Thornton Graves and Thomas Freddie Graves. Although she was the youngest of 11 children she recalled how everyone pitched in to work the farm from which they sustained themselves.
Although she moved from Norman at the age of 10, some of her fondest childhood memories sprang from the Norman Library. She remembers traveling to the library with her mother by way of horse drawn wagon. She and her mother would check out books and read them at home. Wanda stated that she learned to read from the books found at the Norman library.

A childhood photo of Wanda Lee Graves

Beulah Graves, Wanda’s mother.

After her mother’s death she moved to Detroit, Washington D.C. and California. She received an associates degree from Foothill College in Los Altos, California, a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University and a master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She said that all her education was built upon the foundation laid from the books in the Norman Library.
She and her husband Steve Duscha had visited the Norman area with niece Sheila Johnson a few years ago. Sheila shared that Wanda was filled with delight to see the library still in use. After returning home, she and her husband decided to do something to ensure the library remains open for many years to come.
The result was a grant established by the pair through the Arkansas Community Foundation. The grant is to be used to make repairs, upgrades and to promote the library’s use in the community.
Sheila led a discussion on ways the library could increase its presence in the community. Volunteers stated that most of their visitors are tourists who stop by to visit what locals consider to be the “smallest independent library in Arkansas.”
Wanda stated that while she doesn’t have children herself, she would love to see local youth find the same joy in the library she did when she was young.
The group discussed getting local students involved as library volunteers. They also discussed special events that could be held at the library and in the surrounding park.
Wanda presented library volunteers with a $15,000 check which will be delivered to the Arkansas Community Foundation to be included in the library grant. The check is the first to be used to fund the grant.
The Norman Library was first opened in the 1930s and is known as the smallest independent library in Arkansas. It is recognized as an Arkansas Historic Preservation Site and is still open to the public. Jean Lybrand shared that the library was built by the Norman Garden Club with most of the work being performed by members’ husbands. A large cable that can be seen along the top of the rock wall was salvaged from the river after it was abandoned there by a slate rock company.
Jean Lybrand and the other library volunteers invites everyone to stop by and visit the library Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1-4 p.m. It is a full service library which includes two public access computers and wifi. Anyone living in the Norman area can stop in and check out a book.