A NEW LIBRARIAN arrived with the beginning of the sixth grade. Dianne Smith took over from longtime librarian Miss Louisa Hutchinson, who had — horrors! — gotten married very late in life and retired.
The new librarian was brimming with ideas, including a reading contest for sixth graders. For months we had to choose books from a reading list and then be quizzed by Mrs. Smith. When it was all over, the smartest girl in our class had been bested by Danny Henderson, who would soon move with his family to Esto.
A picture of the winners appeared in the weekly Holmes County Advertiser — a high honor in itself — with a story that explained: “The purpose of the reading contest was to acquaint the students with the best books in the library in the hopes they would discover the pleasure of reading and would be encouraged to do more reading on their own.”
The contest ran almost all school year, from October 1966 to May 11, 1967. The Advertiser story explained how it worked.
Mrs. Orren Smith, librarian, prepared a reading list from which the contestants chose the books. The list included selections of fiction, biography, mythology, science, art, music and history. Most books counted one point, but selections from the classics or books of special value counted more.
After reading a book, the student would answer a few questions about it to prove that he had really read the book. The student accumulating the most points was declared the winner.
It was Dianne Smith’s first year back home in the local schools. She would soon move up to the high school to teach junior English. Later, after the formidable Mrs. Mabel Harris retired, she taught senior English and humanities for many years, touching the lives of generations of students.
We knew she was special from the beginning.
MORE: “Guardians of the Advertiser“