The human chain stretched all the way across Andrews Park, snaking between picnic tables and pavilions, past a kickball game, over two roads and across a parking lot.
The chain ended on both sides in libraries, one old and one new. In between were the people who had loved the old library, some for decades, and people who were ready to welcome the new one.
The chain was a book brigade, a line of people passing books from the old Norman Public Library Central to the new Norman Central just across the park.
The brigade showed out several hundred strong Sunday, forming a line across Andrews Park to move the Norman Central folk tale collection. The new Public Library Central will host its grand opening and ribbon cutting at 2 p.m. Nov. 3.
The book brigade offered Norman residents a chance to peek inside the new library before its grand opening, allowing them to ceremonially shelve one of the books they’d helped transport. While the library could have moved the books in a more traditional way, the book brigade offered Pioneer Library System a way to get the community involved and invested, said Tara McCleod, the children’s services manager at Norman Central.
Blanchard and McCloud libraries have hosted book brigades before, McCleod said, so the event was already established within the Pioneer system.
“Everyone’s really invested in both the old building and they’re getting invested in the new building, so we thought this would be a great way to marry the two buildings and let everyone get involved in a safe way,” McCleod said. “...This is a fun event to make memories.”
The brigade brought out library lovers young and old, many with decades of Norman library memories and many wearing Halloween costumes. Toddlers and grandparents alike passed along beloved books, commenting on personal favorites along the way.
Toward the front of the line near the old library, Linda Cowen, 72, remembered several of the books from her own days at Public Library Central in the early 1970s. Cowen, a former librarian, wore a bright orange wig with a straw hat and a patterned vest after Ms. Frizzle, the eccentric science teacher from The Magic School Bus show.
“My first job was here, when I first moved here from Michigan out of college” said Cowen, who worked with Norman Public Schools after her stint with the library. “It’s exciting to see this new library — we’ve been trying to get it for, I don’t know, 25 years or so. So it’s the fruition of a lot of work.”
While the library is trading its old brown building for a shiny new one, the people who make the library will be the same, McCleod said. The library system purchased 50,000 items for the new library, which is three stories and will offer study areas, a technology hub (with 3D printers and a sound and visual lab) and a children’s story time section.
“My staff and I were talking about it, and at the end of the day, people come to the library...for the relationships that they build with the librarians,” McCleod said. “So we’re going to go to that new building, and we’ve decided that we are the library, and we’re going to be that whatever building we’re in.”
As the brigade broke up and volunteers wandered off into the sunny Sunday afternoon, Trisha Hill and Nathan Holden lingered for a moment at the new building. Hill, 48, and Holden, 38, grew up in Norman — Hill said she has about four decades of memories with Public Library Central.
“I’ve been going to the Central Library for about 41, 42 years, and I’m sad to see the old building go, but it was important to me to do the passing of the torch, basically,” Hill said. “I didn’t want to miss it for anything.”
Hill grew up coming to puppet story times and movies at the library — she saw Moby Dick for the first time there. She and Holden plan on being back for the grand opening, they said.
“My whole life I’ve spent in Norman going to that library,” Holden said. “I will miss it, but this is beautiful and amazing, and I’m just excited about it.”
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