(Photo by Leonna Essner, Staff)
"Well, we won't accept anything inappropriate," Thompson laughed. "We'll accept almost anything."
For the first time this month, the library is displaying personal collections from residents of the community. Thompson got the idea during a librarian seminar in Columbia last summer.
"Other librarians were talking about how they have people from the community share their collections in the library display case," she recalled. "I thought, 'Hey, that's a great idea.'"
This month Sarah Clark is displaying her 50-piece bell collection. Ken Lowes donated items he collected from Bahrain, an island located in the Persian Gulf. A member of the Naval Reserves, Lowes was stationed for one year at Bahrain in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I thought it might be a neat idea for the community to see other cultures and their knickknacks," Lowes explained. "I just started picking up things that I ran across during my stay."
Some of the items in Lowes' collection include small 6-8 ounce Coke and Pepsi cans, clothing, KFC and other food chain menus from Bahrain and a map. Any wording on the items Lowes brought back were in another language.
After viewing the collection, Thompson said she felt a sense of comfort for the U.S. military. "It's nice to know that when our guys are over there in these countries, they're not just in desolation," Thompson observed. She's hoping other area residents will gain as much insight as she has from the collection, she said.
Clark's collection consists of bells from places as far as the Bahamas, Paris and Canada and as close as several U.S. states. She even has a Lambert's Cafe bell. Her bells are made of crystal, porcelain, glass and silver.
A bell collector since she was 6 years old, Clark has traveled to some of the places her bells originated. And if she can't make it in person, she'll ask someone who can. Anytime someone is going anywhere, she asks them to bring back a bell for her, she said.
"I think displaying the collections gives an understanding of what people do," Thompson said. "For instance, not a lot of young people like Sarah collect bells so I think it's interesting that she has this collection."
Thompson said she thought it would be to the community's benefit to learn more about one another. It's something for everyone -- no matter what age group, she said.
Not only does having residents bring in their collections benefit the community, it also benefits the librarians.
"We always put our heads together each month, trying to figure out what to display in the case. It's usually holiday-themed. If people brought their collections in to display, it would help us, too," Thompson noted.
The displays don't go unnoticed either, Thompson assured. Kids and their parents come in and look, especially when the library has special programs, she added.
Lowes also thinks the collections are of interest to residents, as well as the community's travelers. A lot of people from the area travel to other countries and go overseas, he pointed out.
"I thinks it's a good idea for other people in the service to collect items," Lowes said. "When they're stationed far away from home, such as places like Guam, Japan or Bosnia, it helps your community get an idea of what these places are like. It doesn't cost much to pick up a few items over the course of a year."
And collectors shouldn't worry about safety. It's totally safe, Thompson insisted. The case is under lock and key and in the view of librarians at all times, and at night, the library is equipped with alarms so contributors wouldn't have anything to worry about, she explained.
"Just about everyone has a collection," Thompson noted. "I know people who have collections of antique dolls, Coke products, Hot Wheels toy cars, stamps and other things. So why not put it on display for everyone to see?"
Anyone interested in displaying or donating a personal collection at the Sikeston Public Library should contact Thompson at (573) 471-4140.