Librarians do much more than check out books, says Rebecca Taylor, who knows what she is talking about.
They spend lots of time researching what books to stock and provide other services including audio-visual, reference, genealogical and other educational materials, rent movies and paintings and schedule interesting and socially relevant programs.
Having retired at the end of 2020 after 13 years as director of the Ector County Library, Taylor welcomed the recently begun county commissioners court-assigned committee study of the library’s future.
Describing the three-story building at 321 W. Fifth St. as one that would be hard to remodel or expand, she said, “My dream is that we have two branches in eastern and western Odessa and we may eventually need one on the north side.
“There’s not enough room in the present location and not enough parking. Putting more money into this building is not the best thing to do. We should build a central library in another location.”
The committee has been tasked with recommending whether the facility should be remodeled or a new one built.
“The public library is the only source of objective, balanced, professionally selected information and entertainment,” Taylor said. “People would have to pay for that level of information from any other source. The only place where they can consistently go for it is the library and they can get it without charge.
“They can learn everything from how to be a plumber and take the plumbing exam to teaching children how to build blocks.”
Taylor is a Big Spring native who attended Howard College in her hometown and the University of Texas at Austin before earning a degree in political science at Angelo State University in San Angelo. She earned a master’s degree in library and information science at the University of North Texas at Denton.
Inspired by Big Spring High School Librarian Jan Harris, who was the sister of Congressman Jake Pickle of Austin, Taylor started her career working part-time in the Howard County Library and while attending Howard College she was hired by Opal McDaniel at the county library, where she became director of the reference department and served till joining the Ector County Library in the same position in 2000. She was named director in 2007.
“We wanted to fill the community’s need for the best quality information we could get, something that had merit, not something like Joe Blow would pull out of his hat,” she said. “We had a committee look at reviews from the Library Journal, the School Library Journal, the Book List or the Book Review Digest if a book was a little iffy so far as being risque or obscene.
“If somebody challenged a book, we did more research.”
A lifelong science fiction aficionado, Taylor extensively read from the works of Isaac Asimov when she was young, greatly enjoyed the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and had just finished a novel titled “Street Freaks” by Terry Brooks of Seattle.
“Most of us become librarians because we are inveterate readers,” she said. “I’m a history buff and if something looks interesting, I read it no matter who wrote it. I’ve always been fascinated by science fiction, particularly the way the future is foretold in fantasy. Mom had a battery-powered radio when I was a kid that we could only play for an hour or so to get the news because the battery would run down and we couldn’t afford batteries. Now we have access to everything, but there is a lot of garbage put out in the world.”
Taylor retired because her severely arthritic knees made it hard for her to get around. She uses an electric-powered chair that she calls a “scooter” outside her home and she employs a walker there to care for her 98-year-old mother Bessie, who crochets baby blankets for new library patrons. Her dad Elmo was an oilfield worker and she had a sister.
Adult Services Librarian J’Nevelyn White said Taylor “is an honest person who dealt with things head-on and sort of enjoyed it.
“Rebecca believed in treating everybody fairly, but she didn’t run from confrontations when she had to say, ‘You have to go by the rules and not bring in huge baggage’ or ‘You can’t beat up people in the library,’ for example,” White said. “I appreciated her very much professionally and personally. I always admired that she could say ‘no’ with a smile and get her point across. She is a brave person and she showed a lot of leadership.
“Rebecca always told us stories from the old days about patrons and her family. She is a traditional Texas story teller with a great sense of humor. She knew when to push for the library in front of the commissioners court and when not to because she knew she would lose.”
Interim Library Director and Managing Director of Tech Services Lynette Nickell said Taylor “always had lots of good ideas about how to handle different situations.
“Rebecca was very supportive of the library and staff,” Nickell said. “She is very intelligent and she tells lots of really good stories about her life and family. She wants what’s best for the library.”