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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Skimmer the Bookworm

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, May 20, 2012

I was surprised by the number of people who called to tell me that they remembered the subject of last week’s article, David W. Griffith, Director of our library system from 1950 to 1965.


Many people remembered Mr. Griffith taking them to appear on his early television show, others remembered the book clubs that he developed in the 1950s.


I am embarrassed that I forgot to relate the story of his most famous item that remains in my office today.


Early in my tenure here at the library, I noticed a small creature on the top shelf of one of the library’s storage rooms.


It appeared to be a figure of a “bookworm,” standing about a foot tall, complete with a bow tie and glasses, a smile on his little face; decked out in a straw hat.


I thought it was a delightful little creature, and I brought it downstairs to my office for display on a shelf for all to enjoy.


Years later, I was looking at some historical records of the library, and stumbled upon an article from the newspaper written by Mr. Griffith, titled “Library Happenings by Skimmer the Bookworm.”


What caught my eye was the small ink drawing with the article.  Yes, it was the Bookworm on my office shelf!


A little research revealed that Skimmer the Bookworm was born Jan. 12, 1953 in the Herald-Star, the author of an article that appeared to promote the library.


He was introduced as a 50 year old Bookworm who found the library when it was new, and had moved around from book-to-book over his many years.


Skimmer’s first words were, “My life of ease in the library came to an end, when snuggled up with Herman Wouk’s Caine Mutiny – a corking good yarn by the way, when a gang of workmen rudely interrupted me one day.


For three months, they banged and puttered about the library adding something here, or knocking out something there.  Believe me, I didn’t get much reading done, I just curled up in Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire and absorbed what information that I could.


Well, they finally complete construction work and painting, what a beautiful difference.  You’ve got to see the difference.”


Skimmer talks about the Great Books series ongoing at the library, and then discusses the popular books of 1953.


“The books getting the biggest rush now are Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Costain’s Silver Chalice, Keyes’ Steamboat Gothic, and Turnbull’s Gown of Glory.


By golly, Steinbeck packs a whollop in East of Eden.  It’s a saga of the underprivileged, not a drama of social significance.  Rule out the book if you’re tender-skinned.”


Skimmer also related his “ride on the phonograph record” while exploring the library.


In reality, there is no such insect called a bookworm, it is a generalization for any insect that will bore into the paper and bindings of a book, such as beetles, silverfish, and moths.


If books are kept out of dark, damp areas, insects should not be a problem.


Modern paper products have an acidic content that insects don’t like, so it is uncommon to find the creatures in books unless there is mold and moisture to attract them.


Libraries like the folks who call themselves “bookworms,” or “bibliophiles,” as they are good on business.


Skimmer the Bookworm would probably like eBooks, but they probably aren’t as tasty as the paper version.  Crawling into a Nook or a Kindle could be downright dangerous for a Bookworm.


So, my apologies to Skimmer for not remembering that he is a product of the Griffith years.


He looks over my shoulder every day, delighted by each and every person who enters the library either in person or electronically.