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Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky’

Photo: Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection/Kentucky Digital Library
A Pack Horse Librarian returning over the mountainside for a new supply of books.

Here’s another story about dedicated book people making sure that books get to people in remote places. This one is from the 1930s Depression in the United States.

Eliza McGraw writes at Smithsonian, “Their horses splashed through iced-over creeks. Librarians rode up into the Kentucky mountains, their saddlebags stuffed with books, doling out reading material to isolated rural people. …

“The Pack Horse Library initiative, which sent librarians deep into Appalachia, was one of the New Deal’s most unique plans. The project, as implemented by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), distributed reading material to the people who lived in the craggy, 10,000-square-mile portion of eastern Kentucky. …

“In 1930, up to 31 percent of people in eastern Kentucky couldn’t read. Residents wanted to learn, notes historian Donald C. Boyd. Coal and railroads, poised to industrialize eastern Kentucky, loomed large in the minds of many Appalachians who were ready to take part in the hoped prosperity that would bring. ‘Workers viewed the sudden economic changes as a threat to their survival and literacy as a means of escape from a vicious economic trap,’ writes Boyd. …

“There had been previous attempts to get books into the remote region. In 1913, a Kentuckian named May Stafford solicited money to take books to rural people on horseback, but her project only lasted one year. …

“Unlike many New Deal projects, the packhorse plan required help from locals. ‘Libraries’ were housed any in facility that would step up, from churches to post offices. Librarians manned these outposts, giving books to carriers who then climbed aboard their mules or horses, panniers loaded with books, and headed into the hills. …

“Carriers rode out at least twice a month, with each route covering 100 to 120 miles a week. …

“The books and magazines they carried usually came from outside donations. [Lena Nofcier, who chaired library services for the Kentucky Congress of Parents and Teachers at the time] requested them through the local parent-teacher association. She traveled around the state, asking people in more affluent and accessible regions to help their fellow Kentuckians in Appalachia. …

” ‘ “Bring me a book to read,” is the cry of every child as he runs to meet the librarian with whom he has become acquainted,’ wrote one Pack Horse Library supervisor. ‘Not a certain book, but any kind of book. The child has read none of them.’ …

“Some mountain families initially resisted the librarians, suspicious of outsiders riding in with unknown materials. In a bid to earn their trust, carriers would read Bible passages aloud. Many had only heard them through oral tradition, and the idea that the packhorse librarians could offer access to the Bible cast a positive light on their other materials.”

More here.

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Photograph: Cassady Rosenblum
Garland Couch (seated) works on some code with James Johnson. The men are part of an effort to turn coal country into Silicon Holler.

About a year ago, I wrote a post about Mined Minds, a nonprofit founded by two young Northerners to help jobless miners learn computer coding skills. This follow-up shows that the idea is taking root and spreading.

Cassady Rosenblum writes at the Guardian, “As Highway 119 cleaves through the mountains of eastern Kentucky, exposed bands of black gold stretch on for miles – come get us if you can, they tease. And for years, miners did: they had good employment that earned them upwards of $70,000 a year and built a legacy of blue-collar pride in the region. ‘We felt like what we did was important,’ says Rusty Justice, a self-described entrepreneur who hauled his first truck of coal in eighth grade. And it was. In 2004, coal powered half of America’s electrical needs.

“But by 2011, Justice and his business partner, Lynn Parish, who worked in coal for 40 years, began to worry. … So the two coal men from Pikeville began thinking about how they could diversify.

Coal country must transform itself into something else, a new place on the map the hopeful call ‘Silicon Holler.’

“In its own, proud way, Pikeville has a new message for America: we’re ready to move on if you’re ready to let us do it our way. That means some help from the government, but not a handout. ‘We need to identify the doers and facilitate their ideas,’ Justice says. …

“ ‘We considered just about everything. Windfarms, solar farms, hog farms – you name it,’ he laughs. As unemployment tore through their 7,000-person town, Justice and Parish prayed for a business idea that would not just pay, but pay people what they had been making before in the mines. …

“Their breakthrough came when Justice and Parish visited a workforce retraining expo in 2014 in Lexington, where they learned about coding.

“The concept appealed to them. Each year, 600,000 US tech jobs go unfilled, jobs that ultimately go overseas but could be on-shored if more Americans had the right skills. Even better, the job paid the same as the mines.

“Justice had seen first-hand how miners employed logic to solve life or death problems underground. Still, he wondered, could a coal miner really code? He called his computer-savvy friend Justin Hall with that question. ‘I don’t see why not,’ Hall said. ‘Great, you’re hired,’ Justice told him.

“They placed ads for their new web and app design company, Bitsource, in 2015, then watched as more than 900 applications rolled in. From this pool, they chose 11 former miners who scored highest on a coding aptitude test. Two years later, in an old Coca-Cola factory by the Big Sandy river, nine men and one woman remain.

“On a late March day, Hall stands at a whiteboard [and] fills the board with modules and nodes as the guys shout out ideas in lingo that eventually makes Garland Couch, a 55-year-old coder, pause at how far they’ve come. ‘Man, we’re nerds now,’ he laughs, pushing his Under Armour cap back on his head. After the session, they break for lunch, then return to work with Drupal software on laptops whose Apple icons glow next to bumper stickers that say ‘Friend of Coal.’

“Despite the team’s new profession, the stickers are a nod of respect to an industry they all got their start in, an industry that still employs some of their friends and family. As Parish is fond of saying, change is necessary, ‘but you don’t want to upset the one who brought you to the dance.’ ”

Read about other companies retraining miners in Kentucky, here.

 

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In honor of the Kentucky Derby last month, Karen Given reported a story on Only a Game about the naming of thoroughbred horses. At the end, the radio show’s host, Bill Littlefield, did a  funny imitation of calling a race. I won’t be able to do it justice. You’ll have to listen to the clip.

“Since 2004,” Given reports, “Rick Bailey has been the registrar for the Jockey Club, and he really enjoys the creativity he gets to witness in his job. Bailey and his staff review about 40,000 names every year and approve two-thirds to three-quarters of them. The numbers add up pretty quickly.

” ‘We do have 350,000 to 400,000 names that are considered active,’ Bailey says.

“With that many names off the table, maybe owners are just running out of normal horse names to choose from? …

“The list of available names is getting bigger, Bailey says, because the horse racing industry is getting smaller.

“There will never be another Secretariat or Seabiscuit. Those names have been permanently retired. But the names of less successful horses are eventually released. Bailey publishes those names on the Jockey Club’s website every year. This year, that list included more than 45,000 names. …

“The list includes Bambi le Bleu, Fabulous Rex, and Zippity Doodah Day. …

“Most ancient horses, says [Philip Sidnell, who has written the book on ancient warhorses], are named for pretty mundane reasons. Take the horses who ran in the ancient Roman chariot races.

” ‘They had names like “Swift” or another called “Snotty” and one called “Chatterbox.” ‘ “

Listen to Littlefield showcase some unusual horse names in the clip, here. “It’s Cookie Monster, Maple Syrup and Spineless Jellyfish  … Cookie Monster is hungry on the outside …”

 Photo: Only a Game

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Building energy savings into school design means more money for education.

At Yes! Magazine, Erin L. McCoy describes what planners did for the rural Richardsville Elementary School near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“When Richardsville opened its doors in fall 2010, it was the first net zero school in the nation, meaning that the school produces more energy on-site than it uses in a year.

“Solar tubes piping sunlight directly into classrooms eliminate much of the school’s demand for electric light, while a combination of geothermal and solar power cut down on the rest of the energy bill. Concrete floors treated with a soy-based stain don’t need buffing. The kitchen, which in most schools contributes to 20 percent of the energy bill, houses a combi-oven that cooks healthier meals and eliminates frying. This means an exhaust fan doesn’t pipe the school’s temperature-controlled air to the outdoors all day long.

“Meanwhile, ‘green screens’ in the front hall track the school’s energy usage so kids can see the impact of turning off a light in real time.

“These and other innovations make Richardsville better than net zero. It actually earns about $2,000 a month selling excess energy to the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

“Three factors are essential to making a green school work: First, you need the participation of the community and the local power company; second, you can’t forget that a school is a dynamic learning environment; and third, you need to speak the language of money.

“Since the economic recession began in 2008, school districts have suffered. Local tax bases were shaken as property values plummeted, and states have cut back on funding to districts, which were pushed to cut funds wherever they were able. Addressing energy use made a lot of financial sense.”

More.

Photograph: Michael Heinz/The Journal & Courier/AP/File
Students gather on the first day of school at Wyandotte Elementary School near Lafayette, Ind., in 2011. Wyandotte is one of many US schools that have made cutting energy use a priority.

 

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