When we renovated and expanded the library from 2010-2012, one of our goals was to make sure the books were no longer on shelves 7 and 8 feet tall. In doing that, we ended up with some of our shelving on the new Lower Level. Mostly what ended up down there were the biographies, a significant collection, and favorite reading matter for many people.
We have been concerned that even after several years in the new building, people are not aware that the biographies are downstairs. So we wanted to do some work to highlight them. One thing we have done is weed the collection, taking out old things that haven’t been read in more than five years, so people can more easily browse ‘the good stuff.’
While I was working on this, I came across a book I didn’t know we had. (Which is, by the way, one of the main reasons that libraries weed out old books–to make the real gems easier to get at!) It is a biography of Gordon Jenkins, a musician, composer, and arranger whose work was pretty well-known in the mid-20th century. A blurb on the front cover of the book says, ‘The man behind the music of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole.’ Gordon Jenkins made significant recordings with each of them, and many more of the best musicians of the 20th century.
He was also from Webster Groves. William Jenkins, his father, was the choir director and organist at Emmanuel Episcopal Church. Chapter two of the book, called The Prodigy, describes Gordon Jenkins’s coming of age in Webster Groves, a ‘delightful little suburb.’ It is an interesting book about an interesting life, with a fascinating connection to our town.