WILDER'S WHOLE WORLD: Visiting the Sherman library

By Dwayne Wilder
Special to the Herald Democrat

Right before the pandemic in January 2020, there was a tidbit of information that showed Americans were twice as likely to be at the library as at a movie theater. When I saw it, I thought, “Wow! That’s actually interesting.”

Then, I sat it aside until now…

I picked up the note I had on this subject with what little information it had and began to think about what it meant. Yes, it was only a year and a half ago but realize what is happening. Streaming services over the internet have been gaining steam for several years before; and theaters were reporting record low attendance over the same period.

Hmmm...all in all, I guess I’d rather be at the library too…

Which, of course, took me back to my childhood and the first library I remembered visiting. We had just moved to Sherman; it was the late 1960s I was in that age group of 8-10 years old; and ready to read anything I could get my hands on. My mother, Pat Wilder, was an advocate of education from the get-go, so off to the local library we went on a regular basis…you know, like grocery shopping or getting your tires rotated.

The Sherman Public Library was on Walnut Street, where the Sherman Museum is now. It was a glorious two-story bevy of books! I remember going the first time; we each got a library card and went to the shelves. If I remember right, I usually got the maximum number of books allowed each visit. As time went on, I moved to thicker books so I only checked out one or two as my reading matured.

The basement was the best; there were so many great books down there. At least, for me there were. I went straight for the ‘down’ stairs every time we entered the stately doors atop that massive outside staircase – up, then down. I remember the front doors were so heavy, but that just added to the ambience. The staff was always so nice; and catered to children it seemed to me. Seeing them was just about as good as getting more books. The SPL quickly became my favorite place in Sherman!

When my mother went to work outside the home in 1972, our visits were cut; and it was an occasional treat to go to the library. This coincided with the building of the new Sherman Public Library on Travis Street, where it is today. It was remodeled in 1984 to house more materials. An arson destroyed most of the old structure in recent years. It was rebuilt with the same outside structure, but completely updated on the inside; and reopened in 2020.

One more note about the original library: It was a Carnegie Library, one of the hundreds built from the Carnegie Foundation to help facilitate learning in rural America. This is one of the greatest programs in U.S. history, in my opinion. A library is vital to a community; and still is even if just for internet access. The idea of building them where there wasn’t one is monumental! My respect for Andrew Carnegie rose exponentially when I realized what he had done. And add to the fact that I got to benefit from the program as a child…so cool!

I may be biased, but I can see why people would rather go to the library. You know I love me some movies, but for the sheer thrill of learning something I didn’t know, the library can’t be beat. The books on the American space program, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, biographies and the classics were all part of my childhood. And it was all thanks to my library card. Greatness!

I guess that’s why I’m still a card-carrying member of my local library. For more than 50 years, it has been my gateway to new worlds and new information. It has helped me grow and mature like no other single thing in my life. It opened my worldview; and made me see life differently from the eyes of a child.

And it all started with that first step up those big stairs on Walnut Street all those years ago…

Dwayne Wilder

Dwayne Wilder is a Sherman native who currently lives in Denison. Wilder’s Whole World is his commentary about life in Texoma and the world. Wilder can be reached at cmandad17@gmail.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.