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Jamestown library plans Louis L'Amour display

From left, Bill Kennedy, development director of the James River Valley Library System, Joe Rector, library director, and Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism, met Tuesday to discuss the permanent Louis L'Amour exhibit to be placed in the periodicals room of Alfred Dickey Library in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / Forum News Service

JAMESTOWN, N.D.—A permanent Louis L'Amour display that will focus on his time in Jamestown will coincide with the Alfred Dickey Library 2019 Centennial Initiative, according to officials.

The display will be in the newspaper, periodical and DVD room, said Joe Rector, director of the James River Valley Library System. It will focus on the time that L'Amour lived in Jamestown and items from the community that are associated with his life are welcome to be in the display, he said.

"Dickey Library is one of last places in town that has a really strong connection to Louis L'Amour," Rector said. "It is a special place where he would come as a young man to do a lot of reading."

L'Amour was born in Jamestown in 1908, where his father ran a livery stable. The family left in either 1922 or 1923, according to Jamestown area historians.

L'Amour traveled the world and settled in California, where he wrote 89 novels of the Western genre along with other nonfiction and short story collections.

Rector said Jamestown Tourism came to him with the idea of hosting the L'Amour display at Alfred Dickey Library. Despite the lack of formal education, he said, L'Amour credited Alfred Dickey Library with instilling his passion for reading and highlighting that connection may inspire future generations.

There was interest in the community some years ago in establishing a museum dedicated to L'Amour, but obstacles including opposition from his family halted the project, said Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism. L'Amour is a larger-than-life character but the display will focus on the lesser-known but intriguing story of his developing years in Jamestown, he said.

Alfred Dickey Library is mentioned several times in L'Amour's autobiography, "Education of a Wandering Man," published a year after his death in 1988 in Los Angeles, Swedlund said.

"The idea for the display is about how this space can continue to tell that foundational story of L'Amour's beginning," Swedlund said. "The exhibit is really rooted in how did Jamestown and the Alfred Dickey Library influence his life, and it's huge, in the way he acknowledges it."

Local historians are helping compile the L'Amour story for the display, Swedlund said. The State Historical Society of North Dakota will develop the interpretation and panels.

The Friends of the Library meet monthly to work on the Centennial Initiative and include the L'Amour display in that effort, said Bill Kennedy, development director for the James River Valley Library System.

The Centennial Initiative has collected 31 stories from area residents who have memories to share about the library, Kennedy said. The goal is to collect 100 stories; Louis L'Amour stories are also wanted, he said.

The exhibit might also include items related to Edna LaMoore Waldo, L'Amour's sister, Kennedy said. The family spelled the name LaMoore, but Louis L'Amour later changed the spelling. Edna LaMoore was a librarian at Alfred Dickey Library and went on to write historical nonfiction including a study of the territorial years of North Dakota, he said.

The James River Valley Library System Board of Directors started on its Centennial Initiative in 2017. The first phase was to replace the roof and repair the building's foundation, Rector said.

Once the exterior work is completed, the indoor work will include Tio tile, carpet, paint, lighting, artwork and shelving that is approximate to the original woodwork, he said.

Around 48 percent of the project's $550,000 fundraising goal has been achieved so far, Kennedy said.