The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky

During the Great Depression access to books was limited for the people of the Kentucky mountains. The women of the Pack Horse Library Project worked hard to right that wrong.

Video Transcript


SANDRA OPDYCKE: --and very, very poor, very poor.

- The Great Depression plunged many Americans into poverty. But the mining towns and mountain communities of Appalachia were some of the hardest hit.

SANDRA OPDYCKE: The mining industry took a dive even before the stock market did.

- In 1935, the Roosevelt administration created the Works Progress Administration, creating many jobs through construction projects.

SANDRA OPDYCKE: Men had more choices. For the women, the main, the obvious choices more these big sewing rooms. If you lived in the mountains, there wouldn't have been any of them.

- First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt works to create one project that would fill that void for women, the Packhorse Librarians.

SANDRA OPDYCKE: They would spend four days out on the trail hitting maybe five, or six, or eight towns in a given day. And so they'd pick up last week's books. And they'd leave this week's books, and maybe read a story to the kids.

- The Packhorse Librarians brought library services to remote areas of the Kentucky mountains. The ground these women crossed was treacherous.

SANDRA OPDYCKE: There really weren't much in the way of roads up in the hills. It was tricky even in good weather. One was called Troublesome Creek. And one was called Help for Certain Creek.

- The weather conditions they faced were dangerous.

KATHI APPELT: And it was super, super cold. The creek wasn't frozen. It was running. But she had enough water on her stirrups that when she got out of the creek-- when she crossed the creek, and it was raining, and it froze her feet to the stirrups. They were really tough, those mountain women.

- Sometimes, the weather got so bad, they had no choice but to hunker down.

JEANNE SCHMITZER: The weather turned very bad on her one night. And she ended up staying at the house of one of her patrons. And it bothered her to have to stay there. Because then she knew they were going to want to feed her. And she knew they didn't have the food.

- No matter what they faced, the Packhorse Librarians brought knowledge to the people of the Kentucky mountains, a goal that seems universal among librarians.

JEANNE SCHMITZER: There are libraries in Egypt that are run on camels. So there are camel libraries. Bush pilots in Alaska who have flying libraries. So librarians are-- if they can figure out a way to get books to people, they're going to do it for.

- AccuWeather, whether I'm Bryan Conyers.