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Local authors write new books, and a new librarian takes over
1B new librarian
Jesse Lee-Jones took over Oct. 15 as the director of the Platteville Public Library.

Two writers — one from Platteville, the other a Platteville native — have published books about very different subjects.

University of Southern Arkansas Prof. Charles S. Young wrote Name, Rank and Serial Number: Exploiting Korean War POWs at Home and Abroad.

Rev. Jeff Pedersen, pastor of Lutheran Church of Peace, wrote A Solvang Christmas Tale, which combines his heritage and his days as a student pastor in California.

Young, who graduated from UW–Madison and earned his Ph.D. at Rutgers University in New Jersey, teaches history survey and American foreign policy courses at Southern Arkansas.

“I wanted to write about the Korean War because it’s a forgotten war, and then I stumbled on the revelation that Korean War POWs were shunned, as opposed to the Vietnam War veterans who were all touted as heroes,” said Young. “It was just viewed very differently.

“That’s what historians do — write books. And there are some important pieces of the war that needed to come out.”

The Korean War began less than five years after World War II ended, and in that time the U.S.’ main rivals shifted from Germany and Japan to the Soviet Union and China.

“There was also a sense in the military and Washington that people just didn’t understand the depth of the Communist threat,” said Young. “It got intertwined with this sense that America was becoming weaker and that women were becoming stronger.”

World War II was the first time women took jobs traditionally held by men because men were in the military. Young examines that topic in the chapter “Target Mom: Disciplining ‘Misplaced Sympathy,’” and the reaction to what he calls “‘momism’ — mothers that were too interfering in their son’s lives, and momism was why our boys were collaborating in Korea.

Prisoners of war had also collaborated with their Japanese enemy, Young said, but North Korea broadcasted American POW statements on shortwave radio.

“During the Korean War, it was still World War II and soldiers were all heroes, and so when there was collaboration people were shocked by it,” he said. “Studies after the war [revealed] they couldn’t find anybody who stuck to name, rank and serial number. That was more a training slogan.”

What happened to Korean POWs once they returned to the U.S. was repeated two decades later by veterans of the Vietnam War.

“A lot of guys said that after one bad encounter they never told people that they were a POW,” said Young, who told the anecdote of a bartender who told a returned POW, “You were one of those cowards.”

Today, Young said there is a “much better appreciation of the pressures that prisoners are under, and they’ve found that POWs make bad scapegoats.”

Pedersen’s book is on a much lighter subject — a Danish Christmas in the style of Hans Christian Andersen transferred to Solvang, Calif., which he describes as “originally settled by the Danish people, and it still has quite a Danish emphasis to it.”

Pedersen was an intern pastor at a Lutheran church in Solvang from 1986 to 1987, and “it just kind of came one day, the inspiration for it. … Solvang means ‘sunny fields,’ and the sun shines there all the time; in fact it’s rare to see clouds” once the morning ocean fog burns off.

For two weeks each year, though, Solvang experiences clouds and rain, and snow in the mountains. “Parents will take their kids out of school and drive up to the mountains so they can experience snow,” said Pedersen.

Pedersen moved the snow from its usual March to Christmas in keeping with the theme of the book.

Pedersen is interested in “the traditions of the various cultures” of people who immigrated to the U.S., including the Danish. “When they came, they’d come here with their religion, their traditions.”

The book was written several years ago just after Pedersen graduated from the seminary, then “I was looking through some stuff — you collect stuff — and I found the tale I’d written many years ago.”

Pedersen commissioned his daughter, Maria, a 2007 Platteville High School graduate who now is a flight attendant for Emirates Airline, to illustrate the book. He gave her “sort of a sketch of what I wanted. … It’s special that my daughter could do the illustrations.”

Pedersen said the book is “fun for grandparents or parents to read to their children, but it’s also for people who are children at heart.”

Pedersen has written six other books, with two more on the way to being published. His books include three devotionals, a marriage book, and a Christmas book based on his life experiences.

“The other books are more theological in nature, and this is a fairy tale,” he said. “Both are inspirational; it’s just a different genre. And I love fairy tales; I’ve read all of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. And there’s an element of truth to a fairy tale.

“To the human mind, maybe faith and fairy tales are one and the same. But for someone who has faith, they can see the difference between faith and a fairy tale.”

The book is on sale at Kathie’s Gifts and Uniques, Driftless Market, and Lutheran Church of Peace.

The new director of the Platteville Public Library has experience at something the library is likely to experience soon:
Moving a library.

Jessie Lee-Jones, who started at the Platteville library Wednesday, previously worked at the Schreiner Memorial Library in Lancaster. The contents of that library were moved from the building to a vacant building on Lancaster’s square while the library is being renovated.

“I got to do the heavy lifting,” said Lee-Jones. “I got to move the library, and I got to enjoy the temporary location.”

That wasn’t necessarily why Lee-Jones, previously the director of the Cobb Public Library, got the job. This was the job Lee-Jones wanted, however. Her husband, Garrett Jones, is a social studies teacher at Platteville High School, and they live in Ellenboro.

“It was honestly an ideal fit,” said Lee-Jones. “It was my dream job. Working in the Southwest Wisconsin Library System, I had gotten to know Carolyn [Schuler, retired library director] and a lot of the staff here, and I’ve been interested in this community.”

Lee-Jones has spent her “very short time just getting to know the staff well and the procedures of the library. I’m looking forward to getting to know the community better and what they’re looking for from the library and how we can meet their needs.”

In her first week, Lee-Jones sees “a very, very talented staff, a well-oiled machine, which is exciting. I see a lot of opportunity and a lot of things on our horizon.”

One of those is the proposed Library Block project, which would replace all the buildings, including the library, on the block bordered by West Main Street, South Chestnut Street, West Pine Street and South Elm Street. The proposed project includes a library double the size of the current library building.

The Platteville School Board earlier this fall approved a lease for its O.E. Gray building to serve as the library’s temporary location during Library Block construction, beginning in May.

Lee-Jones said the O.E. Gray building “sounds like the ideal relocation opportunity,” and added, “I think it’s the ideal time” for a new library director to start. “I’d hate to have a building almost halfway through and throw somebody into the mix  — that would be confusing.”

Moving a library generally is done by professionals, or by volunteers. The Lancaster library used the latter.

“We started probably a year before the move-out date a very heavy weed-out of our collection — if the book hasn’t moved since 1996, it isn’t going to go out in 2016 — and that would be a staff job,” said Lee-Jones. “And then we’d look at things that will be going into storage, what should go into storage, and then the actual moving, and that took months.”

The issue of moving a library is followed by what that new, bigger library will have.

“There’s a lot of discussion that needs to be done on that front,” said Lee-Jones. “I know that programming space is a big [issue], and what does that programming space need to look like. We need to have inviting space for teens to come here after school and use our computers, and our WiFi. We need to have comfortable space for the public, with of course room for all of our materials.”

In the era of the Internet, what is the role of a library?

“Our role is always changing; that is something we’re discussing constantly at the university,” said Lee-Jones, who graduated from UW–Stevens Point and got her master’s degree in library science at UW–Madison. “Moreso you’re seeing a shift to the library as a community center — take a class, do crafts, just get away. Libraries are always going to be here to help you find valuable sources. And then there’s the issue of reading, of browsing.”

The Platteville library is the resource library for the Southwest Wisconsin Library System, which includes 27 libraries in Grant, Lafayette, Iowa, Crawford and Richland counties.

“There are some conversations to be had as far as are we meeting the needs of the smaller communities too,” she said.

Platteville also has the UW–Platteville Karrmann Library.

“I think we serve a different audience,” said Lee-Jones. “We’ll be happy to work with them, and we’re happy to see that crossover of students using our library. But ultimately our audience is different.”