125 Stories

125 Stories

125anniversary - CopyTo celebrate 125 years of a library in Belton, the Lena Armstrong Public Library invites patrons to share stories about the library. The initiative is called 125 Stories. The top 3 stories, selected by a panel of judges, will be awarded gift cards:
  • 1st - $125
  • 2nd - $100
  • 3rd - $75. 
Submit stories using a Google form, in person at the library, or by email. Please send pictures by email. Submission deadline is Friday, July 12, 2024.

Criteria
  1. Word Limit: Keep it concise and engaging, 500 words or less.
  2. Theme: Share a story that highlights the personal impact of the library on your life. It can be a specific memory, a favorite book, or a life-changing experience. Focus on how the library played a role in your journey.
  3. Format: Content is most important. Your submission can be a story, poem, or brief essay. Use your imagination.
  4. Photo: If possible, include a photo related to your story (submit by email). It can be a snapshot of you in the library or an image of a memorable book cover.
  5. Submission Deadline: Submission deadline is Friday, July 12.
  6. Personal Connection: Express your personal connection to the library. Whether it's a childhood memory, a place of solace, or a source of inspiration, we encourage you to convey the emotional significance.
  7. Permission to Share: We reserve the right to share submitted stories as part of the anniversary celebration. This may include featuring stories on our website, in newsletters, on social media, or during special events.
  8. Editing Guidelines: We reserve the right to edit submissions for grammar, length, and clarity. This will help us to create a polished collection.
  9. Age: Submissions from patrons of all ages will be considered. We want a diverse collection of stories that reflect the library's impact across different generations.
  10. Submission Platform: Google form, email, or physical drop-off at the library, 301 E. 1st Avenue, whichever is most convenient.


125 Stories

My First Library Card
Roscoe Harrison
(While Roscoe's story is real, he did not submit it for this contest. Unfortunately, he died in February 2022. His story is an example the type of content we seek.)
The first black resident known to have a library card was a young boy named Roscoe Harrison, who charmed Librarian Lena Armstrong into giving him a card even though blacks were not permitted to use the library due to segregation. “She told me not to tell anybody about the card,” Harris recalled years later, while also admitting “I told everybody I had a library card from Miss Lena!”


The Unofficial Library Latchkey Kid
Jo-Ell Guzman
In a time before cell phones and computers dominated daily life, staying connected with your child wasn't as simple as a quick call or text. For single parents like I was at the time, ensuring a child's safety while working full-time required ingenuity. That's where the Belton Library came in for me.

From 1992 to 1995, while living near the UMHB apartments, the library became a second home for my son during the school year. It may seem like a small moment in time to others, but for us, it was invaluable. It provided him with a safe haven and instilled in him a lifelong love of books, all while giving me peace of mind while I worked. Even though my son is now 40, those years spent at the library are unforgettable.

Back then, children weren't allowed in my workplace during working hours, and there weren't many after-school programs available. Transportation from school to the local youth center wasn't always reliable, and crossing Main Street was too dangerous. So, the library became our solution – a public place where my son felt welcome and safe.

Every day, after school, I would take a break from work to walk my son over to the library. He'd spend his time there doing homework or diving into a good book until I finished work. After a month or so, the librarian approached me and assured me that my son was welcome to come alone as long as he followed the rules. And so, our routine continued until we moved in 1995.

Looking back, I realize my son was more excited to share his library adventures than his school stories. He became involved in library activities, like picking up books or helping with homework. Unofficially, he became the library's latchkey kid. It was a place of adventure and discovery for him, and for me, it was a source of comfort knowing he was safe and engaged until I could pick him up at the end of the day.


My Love Affair with Reading
Suzanne M. McDonald
I grew up on a small pig farm just outside of the city limits of Belton.  My siblings and I walked to and from school every day; round trip it was approximately 5 miles.

I attended Tyler Elementary where I learned to read at a very young age. (Tyler originally stood where Ace Hardware is today). I loved the limitless possibilities that the stories in books provided. I could experience other worlds, foods and people through reading.  I recall reading any and everything that was available to me during my years at Tyler.  It wasn’t until I was in the 5th grade, that my favorite teacher, Mrs. Miller, introduced me to the Belton Public Library (Carnegie Library).  

My 5th grade class walked over to the library, which at that time was located where the current Museum is today.  I walked into that library and was in awe of the many books available.  I recall asking if I could ‘borrow’ a book. I was told that I was too young to borrow a book, but I was welcome to read a book while visiting the library.  And also, because of my age at the time, I could only read books that were on the 1st floor.  

On the walk back to school from our field trip, and for the rest of the school day, all I could think about was how amazing I felt when I was in that library. That very day, after school, I asked my siblings to hang around town for a bit while I went to the Belton Public library. I recall entering the library door with reverence, knowing that my world was just about to get bigger.

I stopped in that library every weekday after school, and literally had to be dragged out by my siblings so that we didn’t get in too much trouble for getting home so late.  On the weekends it was torture for me to be away from my friends (books).  This all changed when I got old enough to check out books.

That is a memory that I shall covet the rest of my life.  I filled out a piece of paper, listened to all the rules and was issued a library card.  I was then allowed to go upstairs to make my selections. 

I soon discovered that I had favorite authors, for example Erle Stanley Gardner.  The aforementioned author made me fall in love with Perry Mason and the idea of being a detective. I can still recall reading the story of Bonnie and Clyde and how the author made me almost taste through reading, a hearty breakfast they made from Robin bird eggs. 

The library moved to its current location and I followed. Eventually, I would have children, and have the privilege of getting them their first library cards. Today, my love affair with reading continues; I thank Belton Library for being an important part of my journey.


Miss Lena and the Old Carnegie Library
Evon Crowell Skilton
When I was in elementary school in the 1950s, the library was known as Carnegie Library. My Dad worked across the street from the library for Southwestern Transit. Tyler Elementary School was close and many days I would walk to the library after school and read until my Dad left for the day, and I would go home with him.

Ms. Lena was my favorite person! She would let me spend my time waiting and reading. I was in my own world. She even had a special chair for me. As I look back I'm certain it was so she could keep an eye on me but at the time it made me feel very special! Once in a while she would let me explore the second floor!

I moved from Belton in the 1960s, but my parents were still there. Several times when I visited them, I also visited Ms. Lena. She instilled in me a love of reading, which I carry to this day! The smell of libraries is something I will always relish.


English History Group Learns about the Republic of Texas
Carole Soulsby
Republic of Texas Pic webI’m not a resident of Belton. I’m not even an American but I visit this city twice a year to spend time with my lovely grandchildren. 

I’ve always been very interested in history and so after retirement I joined a wonderful history group to exercise my passion. Our first series of presentations was concerning England’s involvement in (or interference in depending how you interpret it) the affairs of other countries. I was asked what I would like to present to the group. I stalled a little on my decision, being such a rookie, and went off on a month’s visit to Texas. 

Whilst here I had a light-bulb moment. Texas! Republic! Annexation! Surely the English had their grubby little fingers in that.

So, in I walked to your wonderful library and brazenly asked to read in your reference section. Nothing was too much trouble, I was shown into the reference reading room and directed to the relevant section. Oh my!

I found this wonderful book and it formed the seminal reference for my presentation, which later was well received, not because it was well composed but because it was such a unique piece of history.

I was so grateful as a stranger to be so welcomed and assisted. It’s now a must do every time I visit.


Roblox and Enjoying Reading for the First Time
Dawson Binion
I go to the library with my neighbor, Ms. Jane, along with my sisters. My oldest sister and I love playing Roblox there. We have so much fun, and the books are amazing. My favorite book is Bad Guys, which taught me never to be mean and to spend more time with my family. For my birthday, we visited the library three times in a row, and I was so happy!

I have two sisters, and I am the middle child. Our pets include two ferrets, one dog, one cat, one bearded dragon, and four fish. My mom is amazing; she takes time off work so we can go to the library and play Roblox. She is my superhero, and I love her with all my heart. She always comforts me when I am sad.

The library has shown me how amazing my mom is and how much I love her. Thank you for having the library because I’m not allowed to play Roblox at home. This is the first time I am enjoying reading books. Today, I checked out one that I’m excited to read. I used to hate reading, but now, as an 11-year-old boy, I appreciate it so much more thanks to the library. I hope I win the gift card. I love my family because they care about me a lot. My mom trusts me to play Roblox at the library!


The Library that Saved Me
Renee Stahl
The Libary that Saved Me - CopyNot many know but Lena Armstrong Public Library saved me.

In 2019, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. I spent much of 2020 in isolation.  Then, in 2021, my daughter and I made the library “a second home.” It was like coming up for fresh air after drowning. 

The library brought so much life back to me as I listened to the laughter and saw the joy it brought my daughter. It also brought me the best friendships and community. I made story time and attending all the fun events a new tradition and watched my shy little girl blossom and grow. The library has given us a true love for stories and the adventures we share within them. 

The children’s librarian, Ms. Lauren, instantly made us feel like family! She helped me to be seen and heard. Without knowing it, she brought life back into me. After only a short period of time, she helped lift some of the extra weight off my shoulders. Ms. Lauren is gifted at helping Mamas feel important and heard. I don’t think she realizes the amazing impact she has upon others, but I hope one day she does. 

This small little library made the biggest impact on my life, and I’m forever grateful. It’s life changing when you start to feel human again. Best of all it’s transformative when you start to get your pink back after becoming a Mama, just ask the flamingos. IYKYK!

I don’t know how different life would have been if i didn’t give the library a chance that day in 2021. Thank you Lena Armstrong Public Library for being an amazing part of my family. The library and all within (books included) is a beautiful chapter in our story! The best is, for sure, yet to come!


Lena Armstrong Public Library Gave Me Hope
Jennifer Sicking
At the time, I worked as a reporter for the Temple Daily Telegram out of an office in Belton. While I stopped in weekly to pick up a classic tome or the latest thriller, I soon began to use it for its internet service. Dial-up service was the norm at homes with the shrieks and beeps associated with that now-antiquated service and roommates could inadvertently bump you off with an ill-timed phone call. An old computer at my apartment combined with internet cost made the service difficult for me to obtain.

Ready for a change from reporting, I would sign up for an hour of computer time during my lunch break or after work and peruse online job listings, printing ones that interested me. At home, I would work on cover letters and continuously tweak my resume, hoping to create a potent combination that would bring me a new position. I would return to the library to email my hopes and dreams to another potential employer.

I learned then that librarians are the keepers of our secrets, from the books we check out to the printed copies of job listings they hand to us as we hand over nickels and dimes. The ones at Lena Armstrong Public Library kept mine while giving me a place to dream of a different life. 

Libraries had long been my refuge for the new worlds and ideas within the covers of books. At that time, through its offer of technology, it literally opened a new world to me. Eventually, I found a new job and career. I left reporting for a position at Indiana State University and began a career in higher education public relations. Now, as director of publications with the University of Tennessee System, so many other dreams have been realized from earning a master’s degree in English (creative writing) to traveling the world for work. But it all began because a library gave me a place to hope for something different as well as technology and space to set it all in motion.


Lena Armstrong Public Library: Part of My Life as Long as I can Remember
Caleb Luce
At 5-years-old, I made my first visit with my mom and have been going ever since, so I suppose I’m a longtime patron. The memories are hazy, but I still do remember that first visit, circa 2008 or 2009. Summer sunset flared through the large windows of the children’s section, and there was a lily pad carpet on the floor decorated with lines of lazy frogs and goldfish. The orange, square-shaped book I checked out was about otters, part of a picture book series titled Animals of the World, or something along those lines. The otter book ended up lost behind a dresser for about three years. Luckily, the desk was kind enough to waive the $100 fee on my mom’s account when she sheepishly returned it.

I’m autistic. Until about age 9, I read almost exclusively nonfiction, to the dismay of my school teachers. Sharks, oceans, and Lena Armstrong’s collection of eyewitness books, with their clip-art pictures and bold titles (SHARKS. JUNGLES. DINOSAUR. FUTURE.) were my go-to books whenever we’d visit the library on Saturday mornings. One picture book, Monsters of the Sea, by Rita Gelman, I especially loved, because the last page had a drawing of a scraggly green sea serpent with the caption "What other creatures could be lurking in the deep sea?" That fired up my imagination: I strongly remember checking out that book and spending hours afterwards at home trying to conjure up my own creatures lurking in the deep sea with crayon and notebook paper.

It took a while, but I eventually got into fiction as well. Like probably any other 10-year-old, Tolkien was my favorite fantasy author. My dad bought me the Peter Jackson tie-in paperbacks, but I also had Lena Armstrong’s big illustrated version of The Hobbit, where Smaug was a being not of beastly motion capture but more fat and glittery. The first time I properly ventured off the well-trod path of the children's wing into the adult section of the library was overwhelming. High shelves and thick fiction books with unfamiliar titles and multicolored spines; curtains of pale glittering beads hindered me. I was Theseus entering the labyrinth. Over the years and countless books checked and returned, liked and disliked and loved and returned without finishing, I slowly bested the labyrinth. By ninth grade, August 2018, I had its corners mapped with a more casual ease. Over the years from high school into college and from Lena Armstrong's shelves I got into graphic novels for a while, then YA, short story collections, nonfiction again, horror, stuff from the classic books shelf in the back and everything in between. Lena Armstrong gave me my lifelong love for reading and writing and is very near and dear to me. I’m beyond grateful this staple of my life is still going today.


I Love the Library
Alena
Even though I've only been to the library a few times, I love it and the people. One day, I went there with my cousins, who love the library so much they beg my grandpa to take them every day. When they go, they never want to leave. The library is a wonderful place, and I love spending time there. It's unique, beautiful, and the people are genuinely kind. Belton is also lovely. Every time I've visited, it's been amazing. Going there with my cousins is always a blast—we use the computers to play games, and my little cousins watch Bluey. It's a great place, and I always have a lot of fun. I visit whenever I can because it's the best library I've ever been to, and I never want to stop going.


Nice to Love You, Lena Armstrong Public Library
Xiuhuan Shi & George K. Gao
IMG_1897 - CopyAt our first step into the Lena Armstrong Public Library, I was shocked. How come this library has so many good and fun books; how come this library is so friendly; how come this library feels like space (in my boy’s words). I want to borrow so many books since my 5-year-old boy is a book worm, he just loves digging in reading all kinds of books. However, like all the other libraries, they have the limit that I can only borrow 10 books at one time. But it is a surprise that the very kind librarian suggested that we can apply for a homeschool library card, so that I can borrow as many as 30 books. We were thrilled! We borrowed around 25 books in the end and we are so happy and appreciated!!

The library staff is like kind family who understand and care about children. They never charge a cent if we return the books late! Life can be crazy with kids, so returning books on time can be a challenge, but we have found that library staff members have tolerant hearts. The librarians even try to make us feel less embarrassed when we bring in the books a month after the due date.

We are from China, and Miss Lauren made said something that meant a lot to us. She said she plans to order some Chinese books for the library, which was heartwarming.

The library is a favorite activity for my boy. Every time I ask if he wants to go to the library, he just jumps up and is ready to go. We just love going to the library, especially the children room. He colors, play with toys, reads books, and, of course, teases his favorite librarian, Miss Lauren. His fun in the library never ends. He also loves the children room and feels safe there. Every week during story time, I see the sparkle in my boy’s eyes. I know he loves the library.

We can never say thank you enough for the Lena Armstrong Public Library. It's a wonderful part of our life. We cherish the memories we've created there and plant to have many more. In our life journey, nice to love you, Lena Armstrong Public Library!


Journey in the Library
Ashlyn Briggs
11-years-old
Three years ago, I visited the Lena Armstrong Public Library for the first time. As I walked in I saw kids playing and reading books.I heard kids laughing. I know now that the librarians are nice and trustworthy, but on that day I was so nervous to go into this new place and overwhelmed by the number of books to choose from.  The librarians asked me what I liked and helped me find the right section and perfect book. I looked through all the colorful books and, of course, the first book I wanted to read was Mermicorn Island, by Jason June. My sister picked out Magic Tree House, by Mary Pope Osborne.

When my sister and I got home we decided to read our books, but we were little so we wanted to make a game of it. We each sat down in a chair and read our books, then the next day we read each other's. I never imagined books could be so magical. It was not just the author who made the magic, it was the library. I had such an amazing experience that it made the books even more fun to read. I imagined returning to the library, the kids playing, reading, and laughing, and couldn’t wait to go back. 

When I went to the library the next day, I returned my book and my sister returned hers too, then we both begged our mom to let us go get more books. I looked through the colorful selection, my sister alongside me. We found some books, and when we went to check them out, the librarian asked us about our books and if we liked unicorns or space. She started a whole conversation about it and that was the best conversation I had ever had at a library. My sister and I finished our books by the time we got home.

Lena Armstrong Public Library has enhanced my love to read. I have read more books than anyone my age! It's hard for me to believe that I was scared to go inside a library for the first time. The thought of books piled on a table was overwhelming. Now, when I finish a book I immediately want to go back to the library and get a new one. The librarians treat you really well and always talk to you about what you check out. My sister and I still go to Lena Armstrong Public Library to read books, and the library is still magical.


Belton's Burgers & Books
Jenna Davis
In 2007, most people did not give it much attention. Its weathered walls of orange brick did not have eye-catching ornaments, but to a neglected town-roaming teen, this little library deep in the heart of Central Texas, with its simple façade, was a welcome adventure into a world of safety and quietude. I loved the interior, adorned with historical pictures and a board of community resources. In this building I became engulfed in the newest young adult fiction books. I immersed myself in courageous historical adventures, detailed science textbooks, drawing books, and even books that whispered secrets of forgotten times. I found respite in the Lena Armstrong library. 

I was a couch-surfing teen frequenting a quaint house located nearby between two bridges over Nolan Creek. Despite hardships as a 15-year-old, I was determined to stay in school and find my way. With no parents in sight, I knew there had to be something out there that would help me navigate this world alone. Entering the library always seemed to help dispel my gnawing hunger pains. My hunger for literary treasure was strong too. In the library, I found solace amidst the tumult of that season. Like many characters in cherished books, I found the courage I needed to face the chaos in my life. Determined to dream of a better future I applied for my first job nearby. 

A few blocks away from the library was a standard burger joint. I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and worked many evenings there after school. Often walking past this cherished library replaying tales of distant lands while longing for a quiet corner but also fully knowing committing to hard work would eventually replace the uncertainty of the streets. On the Saturdays I was off work, I loved coordinating with school peers to hang out at the library, my little sanctuary. We would stroll in together; I would ask for different book suggestions and enjoyed discussing a favorite series. It was always a delight to share this place and truly the heart of my teen-guided Belton tour. Afterwards, I would treat my friends to a humble meal at the burger joint nearby imagining that a sense of real family moments had to be something similar to this kind of excursion. 

Finding a beacon of hope in this little library encouraged me to work beyond the confines of tough circumstances. Now, having completed higher education and started a family, I often visit this community resource remembering those uncertain days. Today, with its bright color, Lena Armstrong Public Library is happily decorated in a manner that welcomes any wanderer into its timeless allure of stories. It remains a small place filled with gentle smiles and a mighty legacy. With much gratitude, my modern-day tour now involves sharing this tranquil sanctuary of learning with my energetic children. Occasionally, I bribe them to leave this haven of wonderful dreams by offering to get them a burger from a place that is located only a few blocks away.


Troubled Student Becomes Cherished Friend at the Library
Chita Welch
The Belton Public Library is a special place. One day about 12 years ago, I walked in and saw the children’s librarian reading a story to a group of young children. I thought I could inject some fun into her story time by asking if my little Sheltie dog could listen to the story, too. She agreed that my pet was welcome, if she was well-behaved. Soon, Honey and I joined the circle of children on the floor. The kids loved having a dog listening to the story. I took off my glasses and put them on Honey’s snout. Honey remained completely still and looked straight at the librarian holding the book as though she was reading the book, too. 

The children loved their furry friend and followed Honey’s behavior by also sitting quietly while listening to the story.   The children’s mothers were standing or sitting behind the circle.  

When the librarian read the last book and the children got up to leave, one of the mothers asked me, “Aren’t you Mrs. Welch?”

“Yes, I am,” I answered, not recognizing the young mother.   

“You don’t recognize me, do you?”  she queried.

“I’m Dominica,” she quickly added.  

I remembered the little, dark-haired girl named Dominica that I had taught years ago at Central Elementary when I had just moved to Belton.  I did not see in her beautiful features the wild, undisciplined child that I had in my class. But how could I forget a student that had presented such a teaching challenge to me?  

Dominica introduced me to her children, a little boy and girl who resembled her so much.

I asked Dominica what she had been doing since she had been my pupil. This is the story she told:

“Mrs. Welch, I did not have an easy childhood.  I did not follow rules or do what was asked. I dropped out of school, got in trouble with the law, and ended up going to prison. I was in the Women’s Unit at Gatesville causing trouble. I was about as down-and-out and as low as a person could get. I got to thinking about my life. I remembered what you taught me. I got to thinking about your class, and I knew right then that you were trying to help me. You were the only person who held my feet to the fire by insisting that I take responsibility for my actions. I decided then that I was going to try to do better and change my life. I did just that. I got out of prison, got my GED, found a job, and met and married a helicopter pilot from Ft Hood. These kids of mine will never go through the trauma that I had as a child. I’m seeing that they do well in school. I read books to them every night at bedtime. I’m teaching them how to do good just like you tried to teach me.”

What a wonderful reunion between pupil and teacher! What more appropriate place for this to occur than at the library which is only about four blocks from the elementary school where we first met. The worry and heartache that I had felt for Dominica those many years ago were assuaged. I felt the joy that Dominica expressed in her life’s story. This was a wonderful example of what every teacher wants. I thought it could not get better, but it did.

I asked, “Dominica, where do you live now?”

She answered, “My family lives out at the lake. We live on Denmans Loop.”

“I live on Denmans Loop,” I responded.  

We lived a half a mile from each other. We continued to talk, visit, and enjoy one another’s company until her husband was transferred and she and her family moved to Corpus Christi.

Coincidences happen in odd places. This was one of several that occurred the day I took my dog, Honey, to the children’s story time at Belton's Lena Armstrong Public Library. I am forever grateful that I got to find out how one of my more challenging students turned out. I think that Dominica was also thankful that she could finally let me know that she really had paid attention to my lessons and had decided to work to make something of her life. What a happy reconciliation we had in the children’s section at the library!