Alice Lister loves libraries, plain and simple. She loves the people. She loves the books. She loves the opportunities.
Lister, a resident of Delta for 61 years, has spent much of her life working, volunteering and browsing the shelves at Delta Library. Interviewing Lister is like opening a book on its history.
"1969 was my first year with the library," Lister says. "Then, the city decided they couldn't afford a librarian." At that time, the libraries in Delta County were not part of a countywide district. According to Lister, the City of Delta planned to close the library altogether.
That news did not go over very well with many parents. Lister, along with a team of parent volunteers, set up a schedule to keep the library open.
"Sometimes I was there until 10 o' clock at night." Lister explains. "I lived right across the street, so it was convenient." Over the next year, volunteers would open the library at about 3 p.m. and stay open into the evening to meet the needs of students.
Several years later in 1973, Lister accepted a position at Delta Library. According to Lister, the newly built technical college in Delta did not have space for a library and so a partnership formed between the two organizations. "The vo-tech paid for the books and the library provided the space," Lister explained.
Lister continued to work at Delta Library until 1978, when she resigned to assist her husband in running the family business. In 1983, Lister's husband passed away and by 1984, she was back working at the library.
"The library has been my love since I lost my husband," she reflects. Lister retired from Delta Library in 2002 after decades of service. Then, she started volunteering. Today, Lister is a dedicated patron, but it is not always easy to simply browse the shelves and check out books after such a long career.
"It hurts ... because I want to get behind the desk and start working," Lister says. At 86 years old, working is no longer an option for Lister, but her passion for libraries remains strong. When asked what she would say to someone who says that libraries are no longer necessary, Lister's response is clear.
"I would say, 'look again.' You're talking to a librarian! There's no better place to meet people. People that come to the library are looking for information. They are looking to expand their minds. They are looking for something they don't have at home."
Reflecting back on her many years as a librarian, Lister remembers a time when the Delta Library closed for two months during a major construction project. According to Lister, the community did not handle the closure very well. One patron even came to Lister's house regularly to borrow books from her personal collection.
"That is what librarians do," Lister says. "They help people find access to the things they are looking for. We can't let the libraries disappear."
For more information about Delta County Libraries, library hours and locations, visit www.deltalibraries.org.