11/28/13 — Library staff packs books for troops

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Library staff packs books for troops

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on November 28, 2013 12:10 AM

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Wayne County Public Library tech service supervisor Marion Waters, left, circulation supervisor Bonnie Dail and circulation assistant Rebecca Burke load books into boxes that will be shipped to members of the United States military who are stationed overseas.

At home, Austin Burke can frequently be found curled up on the couch with a good book. But when the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base airman was deployed a few months ago, he had to leave his books behind.

No problem, he thought. He would just check out e-books. But security issues prevented that.

Desperate to get his hands on any kind of book, Burke sent out an email to his family back in the states asking them to send some.

That turned into a unit-wide project for the airman. Since many of his fellow airmen are also readers, Burke decided to start a lending library at his deployment location.

He secured a 30-foot space, but didn't have any books to put on the shelves.

Burke's wife, Rebecca, who works in the circulation department at the Wayne County Public Library, mentioned her husband's predicament to her supervisor, Bonnie Dail, who told the library's director, Donna Phillips.

"Bonnie said Rebecca was going to try to get some books together to send him, and we just fell in love with that idea," Mrs. Phillips said. "Our staff is a wonderfully supportive staff of one another. We wanted to show Rebecca our support, but certainly her husband and all the other soldiers."

In about a week's time, the library collected more than 300 books to send to the deployed airman and his fellow readers.

Most of the donations came from library staff. Some came from private individuals who heard about the project. Others came from books that the community had donated to the Friends of the Library book sale.

"The Friends of the Library was so interested in the book project that they paid postage to send the books overseas," Mrs. Phillips said. "We're really excited that we can let these folks know that their community back home is thankful for the service they provide."

The books included everything from Stephen King horror to Danielle Steele romance to Dean Koontz suspense thrillers.

"I can't imagine not having a book to read," Ms. Dail said. "I am extremely excited to be part of this and let them know in a very small way that we appreciate everything they've done and are doing.

"Hopefully the books will take them away from what they face daily over there. That's what books do; they take us places, even if for a few minutes in their lives."

The books were shipped the day before Thanksgiving and are on their way to the deployed airmen.

"I think more than one staff member here at the library has someone in their family or extended family that is in the military or associated with the military," Mrs. Phillips said. "And living in a community where Seymour Johnson is so important to us, we couldn't help but put a face on every book that we collected."

Mrs. Burke can only imagine what the books will do for her husband and the other deployed airmen.

She said her husband told her that the deployed airmen often have extremely busy days that are very intense, but added that they do have some downtime, too.

It is then when the books will come in handy.

Mrs. Burke said her husband is the only person she has ever met who reads more than she does.

"My husband is a big fan of what I refer to as the trashy adventure novel," she said. "He's a real big fan of Clive Cussler and James Rollins; they are probably his two big ones. He's got a pretty decent collection of Tom Clancy, too.

"He'll read just about anything honestly, but it's the adventure novels and suspense-type things that he likes. At home, he reads daily. Usually we'll read at the same time, but not the same book."

She said she is happy to know that he will share the gift with others.

"He's got a lot of reader fans where he works over there. I'm pretty sure they'll be grateful to read whatever they can get their hands on."