June 2001

Down Cut Shin Creek

By Kathi Appelt & Kathi Appelt Schmitzer
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Thanks to a dedicated teacher's research project assignment and a determined mother helping her child, this book's subject matter was uncovered and a truly fascinating book was created.

The Great Depression, New Deal and Works Progress Administration (WPA) are terms that came from a bygone era. The Depression was a time when Americans struggled with poverty due to a lack of jobs and wages, and Down Cut Shin Creek tells about a unique, successful program born out of that era. It unearths lesser-known information about an innovative WPA program in eastern Kentucky that triumphed over the odds because of some brave, determined local librarians. For a salary of $28 a month, they packed saddle bags with books, magazines, newspapers and pamphlets then ventured via mule or horseback into the crooks and hollows of Kentucky's Cumberland Mountains. Their mission was to loan reading material to people who were starving for the written word. They read to people who could not read for themselves, a treat for people who would have otherwise remained desolate and deserted. The Kentucky people greeted them with anticipation and enthusiasm unmatched by other library patrons of that time because they had not known the void and devoured the literature.

Down Cut Shin Creek is a wonderful tribute to President and Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt and to Kentucky Representative Carl Perkins, all of whom recognized a need for the program. The authors capture the tenacious spirit of the heroic librarians who fought for book donations (the program was grossly under-funded) and lugged literature up and down the rugged Kentucky terrain, sometimes to wary patrons.

Thanks to Appelt and Schmitzer, this heart-swelling anecdote of U.S. history has been lifted from the dark archives to be shared in the spotlight. Down Cut Shin Creek will transport the reader to a different era with the generous collection of historic photographs, showing the faces and living conditions of the people who learned the love of reading from a few courageous women, saddled up and ready to go.


Ethel-Lonniell M. Williams is the librarian at Head Magnet Middle School in Nashville. She enjoys reading and hopes that others will find joy in reading good literature.

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Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky

Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky

By Kathi Appelt & Kathi Appelt Schmitzer
ISBN 9780060291358

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