Pratt library renames Kids Zone as 'The Lea Ann Holland Children's Library'
Wiping tears from her eyes, the ever-gracious Lea Ann Holland offered heartfelt thanks to a full-house crowd Thursday at the Pratt Public Library after Eric Killough, library director, unveiled a new plaque designating the children's section as 'The Lea Ann Holland Children's Library.' Also in attendance was the Lt. Governor of Kansas, David Toland, who offered his special perspective on the importance of community libraries and special people like Holland.
"Good grief," Holland said, before launching into her prepared response for the special ceremony planned to honor her 50 years of service working at the Pratt Public Library and with the children of Pratt.
In Holland's words, she started working in the Pratt library as a freshman in high school, on the invitation of then head-librarian Miss Johnson. As a student "chosen" for the job, Holland shelved books and read story-time selections to children all through her high school years and two years while she was a student at Pratt Community College.
Holland then left Pratt to finish her education and start a career as a teacher, working at Cunningham as a title 1 and math instructor, but someone called her back to Pratt and the public library.
"Miss Johnson retired in 1988 and Mrs. Hoyt became the library director," Holland said. "I was asked back to fill the story-lady position ... and have worked here ever since."
Changes in library work through the next 45 years included a move from the card catalog to computerized tracking.
"Who all remembers having cards inside the front cover of books, white for adult books, orange for children's books?" Holland asked. "And we had the 'clunk, clunk' machine at the check out table. I heard a lot of 'clunk, clunks' through the years."
In 2016, Holland was on hand to help as the Pratt Public Library was completely remodeled from one end to the other.
"Now you can come and spend the whole day at the library if you want to, and never run out of things to do," Holland said. "We now have discovery zones, maker zones, duplos, children's story areas, public computers, a quiet room. I could never have imagined the changes that came over the 50 years I worked here, I can't imagine the changes yet to come."
Despite, and because of, all those changes, Holland said working at the library has always been the job for her.
"I've enjoyed it so much," she said. "The people have been wonderful. It's always about the kids."
After a standing ovation for Holland, Killough commended her for her years of service, which aren't entirely over yet.
"Since I have gotten to know Lea Ann, I have found her [to be] elegant, classy, beautiful, with a great sense of humor," he said. "Lea Ann, you are a riot."
Killough went on to introduce Abigail Skiles as Holland's replacement for when the time comes that she will actually retire. Skiles has been working part-time at the library for several months already.
"When I was told I would replace Lea Ann, my first thought was, 'But Lea Ann is the library,'" Skiles said. "She remembers everything. Lea Ann excels at entertaining and educating. She sees everyone, hears everyone, and welcomes everyone. There is no one who could take her place, but we can try to follow her example."
Skiles went on to wish Holland a happy retirement full of all the things she loves, as well as, hopefully, many volunteer hours at the local library.
Lt. Gov. Toland shared his own childhood library memories and the thankfulness he feels that his children can also experience the joy of visiting a local library very similar to Pratt's.
"The library is an investment in quality of life in our towns," Toland said. "It is so important to have people like Lea Ann in our libraries to nurture our children."
Toland commended Pratt for being a community that valued schools, education, healthcare, shopping opportunities, and libraries.
"Pratt has all of that," he said. "This is a model community in our state right now, showing others how to do it right."