Sarah Krusleski" />
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Monday, September 25, 2023


Gnome brings cheer to library

In an attempt to honor a donor, M.D. Anderson Library staffers acquired a friendly-faced gnome to safeguard the library and attend student-related events.

In his first year on campus, Dewey the library gnome has acquainted himself with students in events such as Election Night and the annual Great Pumpkin contest.

"He’s gaining prestige," said Carolyn Meanley, an associate librarian at M.D. Anderson Library.

Dewey originally joined the M.D. Anderson Library as a show of gratitude to John Probst, a loyal donor to the library’s "Fill and Furnish" campaign. Probst, a retired Cougar alumnus, accompanied his donations with hand-written letters and photographs from his Florida home.

The letters recounted his days as a University student and whimsical stories of his current adventures with his garden gnomes.

A March 2008 photograph shows Probst enjoying a beer with another one of his gnomes, Elmer.

"Elmer’s place always has a few cold ones on hand," said a hand-written note on the photo. Another striking photograph shows Probst in his garden, with his gnome Ted peering from the trees.

The old man and his gnomes absolutely charmed the library staff.

"My God, we need to get a gnome," Meanley recalled saying.

In Spring 2008, Dewey joined the M.D. Anderson Library staff after Director of Development Iska Wire purchased him for $12 from Target. The library staff created a small collage of Dewey’s daily activities, including a photograph of Dewey enjoying leisure reading while sitting in the chairs that Probst’s donations helped buy.

"It started off as good stewardship of a donor," Wire said about Dewey. "We told him about a day in the library in a way that we knew he would enjoy."

These days, staff members inquire about Dewey’s adventures and Probst warns the gnome to avoid the ladies so he can keep his grades up.

Even Dean of Libraries Dana Rooks enjoys joking about Dewey’s time in the spotlight.

While Meanley jokingly recalled that a female student "had her hands all over" Dewey on Election Night, other students had mixed reactions to photographs of the gnome.

"I don’t think a lot of students will know how to respond if they don’t know the background story," pre-pharmacy sophomore Nephy Samuel said.

Dewey will support the University’s creative writers at Poetry and Prose on Wednesday and will support students in the home stretch of their semester at Finals Mania on Dec. 11. Meanley even anticipates introducing Dewey to Student Governing Association President Sam Dike and Vice President Jonas Chin.

"The more fun things we can do, the better," Meanly said.

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