Excerpts from Down Cut Shin Creek

Down Cut Shin Creek,
The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky

by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer
Harper Collins, 58 pages

“If you were growing up in the 1930s in the rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky, you’d recognize the pack horse librarian immediately as she came up the trail. Her saddlebags would be filled with books, one of which might be for you. Your heart would race, and you’d be so happy that you’d shout, “The book woman’s
comin’! She’s coming down the creek!”

…The book women were dedicated. Although their salary was only $28 a month, they were proud of the work they did. Taking books to people who had never had access to them before was not only hard work. It was important work.

…The people the librarians served in those isolated hills and hollows were their neighbors and friends. They wanted the same things their neighbors did – a better life, a better education, and some knowledge of the outside world…

The mountaineers were hungry for ways to improve their lives, and they found the magazines on home health care, cooking, agriculture, childcare and machinery particularly helpful. Always, children’s books were in the greatest demand, and there were never enough of them. And they weren’t just for kids. Many adults who had never learned to read liked them because the pictures helped them figure out the stories. Sometimes, the children of the household read out loud to the adults and actually helped their parents and grandparents learn to read.

Alex Tarr is an assistant professor of Geography in the department of Earth, Environment and Physics at Worcester State University and member of the Living New Deal board of directors.

2 comments on “Excerpts from Down Cut Shin Creek

  1. This is a fascinating chapter in our nation’s history.

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