500 Hats, 600 Books!

Don, a former Duluthian, shared his library story:

I owe a great deal to the Duluth Public Library because it was there that my academic future was shaped.

My father died in an accident when I was seven years old. My mother was forced to move herself and me to Duluth. I went from a one-room country school to a much larger city school where I knew no one in my 3rd-grade class. My mother took a job which was adequate to support us, but she began work each day at 7 am, was off from noon until 3 pm, and then worked until 6 pm. She had Thursday and Friday off but worked every weekend.

On Saturday mornings she would leave a silver 50 cent piece on the kitchen table for me. I would use five cents to take the city bus downtown. A movie at the Strand was 12 cents. The Strand consistently showed Roy Rogers and Gene Autry westerns, also Abbot and Costello comedies. After the movie, I would go across Superior Street to the Bridgeman Russell soda fountain and spend 18 cents on a double malted.

I soon discovered the public library about three blocks away. I wandered into the children’s section and began to read. One of the first books I read was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss, and I was hooked. Nearly every Saturday after that, I checked out the maximum of five books, returning them the following week. I rarely called on any of the librarians but they were always kind and helpful. I would catch the bus home for another nickel and give my mother back the dime that was left. This went on until graduation from the 6th grade, with an estimated 600 books under my belt and a vocabulary and syntax which totally disgusted my contemporaries.

During the summer after the 6th grade, my mother moved us to Spokane, Washington. I graduated from Washington State University and went on to graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I retired from the tenured faculty of the University of Missouri in 1998.

Oh, one final thing—I married a librarian.

Don and his wife gave a transformational gift to the Duluth Library Foundation that will help make it possible for the library to serve children like Don today and for decades to come—and to open up doors of opportunity for them.

Don, former Duluthian, and library supporter

A Case of Identity

On April 30, 2018, author Brian Freeman stood at a wooden podium at Glensheen mansion. To his left and right, a man and a woman—victims? villains?—were perched on stools. A crowd of 100 people sat facing the trio. In his hand, the author held a copy of his about-to-be-released new book, Alter Ego.

The audience waited in suspense.

Seven months earlier, the author had been a featured speaker at a different Duluth landmark, the Duluth Public Library, where he was part of the fundraising event, “Learning & Libations at the Library.” That evening, he allowed the Foundation to auction off the name of a character in his next book. The auctioneer had stepped forward with Brian at his side. The bidding was fast and furious. Soon, only two bidders were left, Lori Fulkerson and Dean Casperson. They fought it out, raising the stakes, until the moment that Lori made a bid, and Dean let it go.

The character was hers.

Then Dean approached Brian. If he donated his highest bid to the Foundation, would the author include his name as the male character in the book? The author agreed.

Now two characters in the book Alter Ego, set in Duluth, would be named after two real Duluthians.

Seven months later, at Glensheen, Brian recounted this story to the audience. Then he paused.

After months of waiting, the moment of truth had arrived. Had Brian made Lori and Dean victims, or villains? Good, or evil? Major characters, or bit parts?

Brian opened the book and began to read. The expectant crowd hung on every word. The characters Lori Fulkerson and Dean Casperson came to life, and people gasped in astonishment, then looked at Lori and Dean. They now knew who they were.

Brian closed the book and took questions from the audience. Then he, Lori, and Dean were seated at a long table nearby, pens in hand. Each guest received a copy of Alter Ego and stood in line to have their book inscribed by author Brian Freeman—and by the real Lori Fulkerson and Dean Casperson.

Lori Fulkerson, author Brian Freeman, and Dean Casperson

Summer Reading, Books & Baseball!

This annual event at Wade Stadium hits it out of the park!

Every July, an hour before game time, kids and their families stream into Wade Stadium. Clifford the Big Red Dog welcomes them, urges them to sign up for the library’s summer reading program, and invites each child to select a free book to take home and keep.

That’s when the magic happens: Duluth Huskies ballplayers take the field, sitting down on the turf to read to the kids, up close and personal. They demonstrate the importance of reading. The positive connection between children, their hero-athletes, and reading has an impact that lasts well beyond that day.

Summer reading helps prevent the decline in academic skills known as “summer slide.” Books & Baseball Day at Wade Stadium, supported by Foundation donors, encourages children to read all summer long.

Duluth Huskies player reading to children at Books & Baseball Day at Wade Stadium.