LEADER, Minn. - Great grandparents love telling stories about treks to one-room school houses on 20-below mornings.
But as far as we know, only one great grandma is still making the trip.
At age 89, Ruth Boldan is still a volunteer librarian at the under-heated, over-stuffed 1890s school house that is now home to the Hazel Dell Library.
From entryway to woodshed, more than 5000 books pack the shelves and spill onto the floors of the 1890s school house.
Ruth loves them all, with the exception of the romance novels. "Been there, done that," she laughs. "I don't need that anymore."
Books warm her heart, even if the library's heating system leaves her nose and toes a little cold. On a recent subzero morning a water bottle sat frozen on the librarian's desk, while snow remained on Ruth's shoes a half hour after she entered the building.
Books weren't so easily borrowed around Byron Township until ten years ago, when a small group of volunteers decided it wasn't right to have to drive 20 miles to Staples to have access to a public library.
"We just told people we want donated books and they brought," Ruth said, "books and books and books."
Check-outs are logged in a spiral notebook. Patrons cross out their names in pen when the books are returned.
Don't look for late fees or due dates. The official policy of the Hazel Dell Library is covered in six words recited by Ruth: "As long as you want 'em."
Paging through the notebook, Ruth discovers a large number of books checked out to one patron. Makes perfect sense, Ruth says. "She took all these books in October and she's probably going to read them all winter."
Ruth's been at this, really, since 1941 when she started her teaching career - in a one-room school house.
"I would still be teaching if my eyes were good," she says. Yet approaching her 90th birthday, she's still drawn to the chilly old old school.
"I'm sitting here for my shift of three or four hours, maybe three cars will go by." But even three cars present three opportunities to put a book in someone's hands.
"Anything that will make people expand their minds," Ruth says. "In the last breath I take, I'll be learning."
Great grandparents do love their stories of one-room schools. Ruth Boldan is still living hers.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)