Giving to the Library: Jean Scheidemantel

When Jean Scheidemantel was five years old, she and her older sister could get on their bikes and ride to their local library by themselves. They checked out books, stowed them in their bicycle baskets, and rode home to read their treasures. Back then, Jean’s favorites were Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, and the Nancy Drew series.

It was the beginning of a lifetime of loving to read.

“Both my parents were readers,” Jean said, “So it was just natural that my sister and I both took up reading as a pastime we enjoyed.”

As in many bookish households before the dawn of digital entertainment, the family spent hours sitting in companionable reading silence. Now, in our noisier time, Jean remains keenly aware of how those hours shaped her and prepared her for success. She wants today’s children to have the same advantage, and that’s why she donates every month to our library system.

“My giving to the library is about supporting books and reading,” she said. “There are so many great programs at the library, but my real reason is the books. Every child should have a book in their hands from the time they’re five years old.”

Though Jean grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, she has lived in Little Rock for over forty years, ever since she took her first job straight out of college. She greatly values the Central Arkansas Library System.

“The library is just awesome,” she said. “I’ve been retired 6 or 7 years now and I go to the library on Rahling Road (CALS Thompson Library). It’s so easy to order a book—CALS has made it so easy to get what you want. It’s almost as close as going to the Kroger store! I primarily use the print collection, because I like print books.”

Some of her personal favorites are mystery/suspense novels.

“If you went to my house right now, I have two library books checked out, my sister who lives next door has a book checked out, and her husband has a book checked out. It’s a family habit. And we’ll read the same book so we can talk about it. We’ll look at a list of 40 books by someone like Robert B. Parker, who wrote Spenser for Hire, and see which ones we haven’t read. Or James Lee Burke, whose books I’ve loved since I first picked them up because I love the pictures he paints of New Orleans. I’m a fiction reader, by and large, because for so many years, I wanted to read for an escape, to experience a far-off land or a different city. “

Jean’s generosity to the library clearly springs from a deep desire to help young people and give them the opportunity for a better future.

“The library has been important in my life, and I wish every child had as much access as I had,” she said. “We need to make sure that parents know the value of the library as an asset in their children’s lives. Learning to read is key to a good education.”

Find out more about giving to the library system here.

interview feature by Rosslyn Elliott