So the crowd — initially all holding hands — passed the library’s collection of fairy tales and folk tales person-to-person about 1,700 feet, from the 53-year-old Norman Public Library Central branch to the new, gleaming $39 million library building.
“Some people were giddy,” said Pioneer Library System spokesman Keith Merckx. “And some people called it bittersweet because of their attachment to the old building.”
Sally Mae Johnston was both. She showed up to the “book brigade” with her husband, Norman. (He was not named for the city). The couple has lived in Norman for 30 years after relocating for his job at the time as an assistant department manager at Walmart.
“One of the first things I did when I moved here was get a library card,” said Johnston, who declined to give her age, saying, “I’m sticky about that.”
She said that she saw the call for help moving the books on Facebook and that it was her husband who initially said he wanted to go. Johnston, who belongs to two book clubs at the library, agreed right away. After all, it’s been a staple in her life for 30 years: In addition to the hundreds of books she has borrowed, she registered to vote there, learned how to use a computer there and took a Spanish class that taught her enough to keep up with a telenovela.
“It’s my hometown library, and we wanted to be part of history,” said Johnston, who also worked at Walmart and retired 12 years ago as a manager in the crafts and fabrics department.
She said she was charmed by the GoPro video camera that was affixed to the book “Chicken Little,” the tale of a chicken that is smacked in the head by a falling acorn and then believes the world is coming to an end. Johnston joked that once Chicken Little is in its new home, it would no longer have to worry about the sky falling.
The GoPro video shows hundreds of smiling faces as they pass the book down the line. Some people are confused, and many ask why there’s a camera on the cover.
“It’s fun to watch the books handed from adults to children,” Merckx said.
The Pioneer Library System asked for volunteers to help move the children’s books as a way to gather book lovers and include the community in the moving process. Professional movers transferred the rest of the books to the new branch, which opens Sunday. The library in Norman, a city with a population of nearly 123,000, is part of a system that serves the three surrounding counties.
The idea behind moving fairy tales and folk tales was that even small hands could move children’s books. The book brigade included many children, some of whom showed up in Halloween costumes, and people from all walks of life.
Aletha Hill attended with her two daughters, ages 8 and 11, who were dressed up as the Big Bad Wolf and a medieval huntress, respectively.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,” said Hill, 35, a hairstylist, who heard about the event from clients. “My daughters thought it was awesome. We can’t wait for the new library to open up.”
Hill said her family typically goes to the library on Sundays, and it is where she helped one of her daughters learn to read.
“It’s a good environment to help them study,” Hill said.
Johnston said she felt honored to be part of the event, which stretched across a city park and lasted about 45 minutes.
“At the very end, we were told to take a book and put it on the new library shelf in its forever home,” Johnston said. “Doesn’t that just give you the chills?”