Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cross Timbers Library Collaborative

"Lone Star Historian 2" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas during his second year. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College ( in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published over 40 books, almost half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by his alma mater, Texas A&M University - Commerce. 

Last week I had the double pleasure of returning to the campus of Texas A&M University – Commerce, where I’ve received three degrees, to address a conference of librarians, to whom I owe a deep and collective debt of gratitude. Megan Beard, Metroplex Library Coordinator for TAMUC, issued an invitation to me as Texas State Historian to provide a keynote to open the Third Annual Conference of the Cross Timbers Library Collaborative.

The CTLC was founded a few years ago to foster partnerships among the librarians of the North Texas region for resource sharing, innovative programs, and cooperative staff development. Dr. Martin Halbert, Dean of Libraries at the University of North Texas, is the president and a founding father of the CTLC. An excellent, varied program was arranged for the day-long conference at TAMUC, and more than 200 participants attended. Megan Beard was program chair, and she greeted me on Friday morning, August 7, amid a busy registration scene. I was also greeted by Dr. Halbert, and by Dr. Adolfo Benavides, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at TAMUC. When the participants had assembled in the large ballroom where we met, Dr. Benavides offered a welcome on behalf of TAMUC, and he graciously announced me as keynote speaker.

With Megan Beard
I entitled my presentation, “From Ephesus to Cooperstown to a Score of Carnegies: Library Adventures of an Author/Historian.” I explained to the assembled librarians that I fell in love with my first library as a first-grader in Corsicana, when my mother began driving me to the local Carnegie Library, which was built in 1904 at a cost of $25,000. The Corsicana Public Library was presided over by Miss Kate Holman, who noted my reading preferences and guided me to similar books, then showed me how to explore the shelves.

Dr. Martin Halbert
When I transferred from Navarro Junior College in Corsicana to East Teas State College (future TAMUC), I embraced the new James Gee Library, with what seemed like miles of book shelves. I spent my time between classes and evenings until closing time, 10 o’clock, in that library. I majored in history and English – and library, and my informal reading program was a tremendous learning experience.

Dr. Adolfo Benavides
As a young teacher I began to write non-fiction books, and now more than 40 have been published. Many titles have been about the frontier, several have been on various Texas subjects, and six have been official histories of baseball minor leagues. The baseball books have taken me to city libraries across the nation, while the other books have brought me to Texas and Western libraries large and small. I’ve worked in state archives in Wyoming, Arizona, and Texas, as well as the research library at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Everywhere I’ve received willing and resourceful help from librarians. Recently my State Historian office on the Panola College campus was moved to the library, which I’ve relied upon for countless interlibrary loan services through the years.

I recounted special adventures, such as visiting the magnificent library ruin in the ancient city of Ephesus, and gazing upon the Book of Kells, Ireland’s greatest national treasure, in the Trinity College Library in Dublin. I also mentioned my visits to each of the 13 Carnegie Library buildings which still stand in Texas. Four continue to fulfill their original purpose (Ballinger, Franklin, Jefferson, and Stamford). The old Carnegie in Palestine houses the Chamber of Commerce, the Carnegie at Wiley College was converted to an administration building, and most of the others serve the public as museums. A total of 34 Carnegie libraries were built in Texas, from Pittsburg in 1898 to Vernon in 1915. The audience responded graciously to a historian’s view of libraries and librarians, and to the sincere gratitude of a researcher/writer to librarians who have made my work possible.
Jefferson's Carnegie library
Library at Ephesus

Not long after returning home from Commerce, I engaged in a radio interview with Johnny Rowland. I had met Johnny the previous weekend, when he attended my “Gunfighterology” presentation at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. Johnny is a firearms expert and radio host who talks about guns and shooting and current events to an audience that recently measured 160,000. Johnny interviewed me for half an hour, introducing me as the State Historian of Texas. We had a lively conversation, focusing on gunfighting in Texas, and Johnny asked me to return for a future program.

For more information:

To hear radio interview with Bill:

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