LUMBERTON — Kelly Mecifi was surprised at how light the large black books that encompass the entire Old and New testaments are as she flipped through the pages, running her hands over each.
Each of the 19 volumes is full of tiny raised dots, which tell the Bible’s story in Braille.
“It’s fascinating,” said Mecifi, a technology services and reference librarian at the Robeson County Public Library. “… I had no idea it would be this many volumes. It’s amazing how much the Bible takes up in Braille.”
The volumes, as well as eight Methodist hymnals and a partial New Testaments, were recently donated to the library by Butch Lennon, a Fairmont resident. They belonged to the late Nettie Ruth Floyd, a Fairmont resident who became renowned for selling subscriptions to The State magazine in the 1940s. The magazine is now called Our State.
Lennon grew up across the street from Floyd.
“I knew her from when I was a small child coming up,” Lennon said. “She walked up and down from town. … She went by with her Seeing Eye dogs constantly. Just a wonderful lady. She’d stop and talk and she knew so much going on you never would’ve known she had a handicap.”
Floyd’s niece, Martha Jane Rusher, was cleaning out her house to sell it, and came upon the books. She called Lennon, and he wanted to make sure they were preserved, so he contacted the library
The books don’t have a year, but Mecifi estimates they are from the 1950s. She said the library will house the Bibles on the bottom shelves of the religion section.
“We have a lot of call for the Bible period, in many forms,” Mecifi said. “… They are usually checked out. Our religion section is very popular.”
This is the first Braille donation the library has had, and although Mecifi said she is not sure how often the books will be used, she is glad to have them.
“We are very thankful for donations,” Mecifi said. “… We don’t have a lot of money to buy books all the time, so we rely on donations a lot to add to our collection. We’re always thankful for any donation. If we don’t need it for the collection, we’ll put it in our book sale, so it still helps the library.”
The books bring a piece of history to the library.
“As a historical kind of factor, a lot of kids aren’t going to see Braille,” Mecifi said. “Classes can maybe come in and learn what Braille is like. It’d be interesting for kids.”
Floyd rode a bus or train daily with her Seeing Eye dog to sell her subscriptions, which she did for 47 years. She visited about 150 towns each year. Her story was chronicled by Vicky Jarrett, the editor-in-chief of Our State Magazine, in a 2006 edition of the magazine.
“Traveling with a Seeing Eye dog made her a pioneer — she continually had to challenge no-dog rules, convincing waiters, bus drivers and conductors that anywhere she went, her dog went, too,” Jarrett wrote.
Eventually Floyd purchased a car and hired drivers to help with her sales.
Floyd was also active in the North Carolina Association for the Blind, and helped establish Camp Dogwood, which was a camp for deaf and blind adults at Lake Norman. She was a Methodist youth fellowship leader in her church and an accomplished pianist.
“I won’t often miss being in town on the same week, year after year,” Floyd told Bill Sharpe, the publisher of the magazine in 1965. “Many of my customers remember, too, and they look forward to seeing me, just as I look forward to seeing them.”
Jarrett wrote that Floyd had six dogs during her career: a German Shepherd named Jessie; a Dalmatian named Candy; a Rhodesian ridgeback named Jill; a collie-shepherd named Heidi; a Labrador retriever named Tally; and a yellow Lab named Cheers.
“I remember every dog she had,” Lennon said.
After graduating from the Governor Morehead School for the Blind, Floyd visited publisher Carl Goerch in 1940 to ask about selling subscriptions.
“‘I don’t think you can do it,’ he said. ‘and I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed.’ Nettie Ruth continued to plead her case, and finally Goerch agreed: ‘After you sell your first five subscriptions, get back in touch with me, and we’ll see,’” Jarrett wrote.
Floyd sold 10 that day.
What came of her career was a lasting legacy, of which that Robeson County has a small piece.
“It’s a unique collection,” Mecifi said. “And if anybody asks, we have it.”