BENTON -- When one walks in the door to the Riverside Regional Library in Benton, they see a children's area to the right. It has the usual -- a table and small chairs, toys and books -- plus the recent addition of a large rug that says "Read" with books, apples, spy glasses and bookworms coming out of the book.
And every time branch librarian Bernice Kern looks at the rug, she remembers a frequent library visitor, Ruth Dodson, who became her friend over the years. The rug was bought donations made to the library after Dodson died last year.
Library memorials are becoming a mainstream way for people to give tribute to others. Donated books and items make up the bulk of a library, with some, like New Madrid Memorial Library, crediting about half their circulation to memorial books.
"It's a good way for people to make a contribution to the library and also honor somebody," said Sue Tangeman, director of the Sikeston Public Library. "It allows people to honor someone in a lasting way that is a little bit different from the usual."
Although books may be the most popular memorial, some items, like the rug Kern bought, are also accepted or purchased with the donations. Audio and video tapes are accepted, too.
"We have a lot of bookshelves, computer tables, chairs and pictures donated,' said Martha Hunter, branch head at the New Madrid Memorial Library. "Just whatever we need to finish up our decor."
Purchasing the rug was something different Kern did because of the amount of money donated per wishes that donations be made to the library. Buying something for the children's area was fitting because Dodson often sat there, encouraging children to read.
"They said 'I think Mom would like that,'" Kern recalled when she told Dodson's children how she planned to spend the money.
Libraries handle their memorials differently. But for the most part, a sum of money can be donated or a book.
"Sometimes they have a special book they want and will bring that," Hunter said. "But mostly they will just donate the money and say 'use it for whatever you need.'"
Tangeman agreed, but added the Sikeston library prefers to order the books themselves, to ensure no books are duplicated.
The libraries try to purchase books that match the interest of the person they are donated in memory of, too. For instance, when a potato farmer died in Benton, Kern used the money to buy several books about potatoes and farming.
Additionally, the libraries do something to display the item is a memorial. "There's a little plaque that tells who it's in memory of and by whom," Hunter said.
At the Sikeston library, a log is kept of memorials, should a family member of the deceased come in and want to see the donations. Additionally, staff sends an acknowledgement of the gift, Tangeman said.
Books and other items aren't always donated for the deceased, either. "They may give it in honor or a living person," Hunter said.
The amount of donations fluctuates. But just last month, over 40 donations were received for one person at the New Madrid Memorial Library. They are also popular memorials for those who are prominent in the area, like court house officials and doctors, or for those who have moved away, Tangeman and Kern agreed.
For the most part, people donate books to help the community and give a lasting tribute. And at most libraries, it lasts forever. "We do not get rid of our memorials -- they are not discarded," Hunter said.
"Flowers are nice, but they're here today and gone tomorrow," Kern said. "A book is a present you can open again and again."