By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
One time this column mentioned that although the library had become a shining medal, a landmark for the community, that it had lost favor with some of the older folks who no longer felt as comfortable as they did with the old library.
A few days after that comment appeared in ink, I made my usual stop at the library. Lori Acton was making her rounds and veered in my direction like a trooper initiating a pursuit. She did not greet me with the trademark smile and there would be no room-filling laugh. She began to interrogate me about my comments. I sweated.
She was not mean-spirited or rude. It was like I had told someone their child was ugly. She slapped me with numbers, the percentage of people using the new library compared to the old. She punched me with the dramatic increase in circulation since the new building had been built. Then she drop kicked me with the attendance for the various programs and classes offered by the library.
And then came the smile. This was not an interrogation; it was just a leader trying to find out why someone would say something she knew was wrong. And I was wrong. I had listened to people that did not know, not the one that did.
Although she was the Director of the Laurel County Public Library, Lori was much more.
What people like Lori mean to a community cannot always be seen by those that do not know her. You do not realize the number of board meetings, planning meetings, and leadership decision she has made. The Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, and Adult Literacy have all lost a passionate ally.
The library is where Acton affected the most people.
The books were organized, shelves dusted, and librarians stationed at all the right place. The magazines and newspapers rotated on a regular basis so that you can almost mark your calendar on when new ones will arrive. The computers were always running. How many people that step through those doors knew the person that made sure these things happened?
The worst part of losing someone like Lori Acton was she had so much more to give. I will dearly miss Lori, but we all will. Some just don’t know it yet.