Alvina Maier peers through one of the shelves at the Elgin Public Library, where she is pursuing a goal to read every book.
photos | Luann Dart
A volunteer librarian at the Elgin Public Library, Barb Koenig, helps Alvina Maier check out her next group of books.
As Alvina Maier hands her well-used library card to volunteer librarian Barb Koenig at the Elgin Public Library, something rather magical is happening. Not only are the black-and-white pages of a library book about to burst into vivid full-color imagination, but Alvina is pursuing a special feat by perusing those pages. She is reading EVERY book in the local library.
Every evening, Alvina walks the prehistoric plains with author Jean Auel, or sleuths a mystery with Agatha Christie. She marches across the Civil War’s bloodied battlefields or quietly taps her heels through a mansion’s marbled hallways. It’s all on the pages of a good book. Or about 1,200 good books – and counting.
When Alvina acquired her library card in 2016, she checked out the first 10 books on the shelf during her first visit.
“I just thought I’d start in the beginning,” she simply said. “It just started. And they’ve all been pretty good.”
Approximately 1,200 books later, she’s still reading, book by book, row by row, checking out every book, 10 at a time. She spends about two weeks reading her pile, then returns them to check out 10 more.
“After supper and after the news and the weather, I just read. I don’t watch TV. I just find (reading) more relaxing and fulfilling,” she says.
“There have been times I stayed up until midnight,” she admits, saying she typically reads two to three hours each night.
And among those approximately 1,200 books, Alvina has only found about two that she didn’t care to finish, because they didn’t hold her interest. Otherwise, she’s read every one. Among the six, two-sided bookcases in the library, Alvina has read books from a little over three sides of the bookcases. Next in line is “The Horse Whisperer” by Nicholas Evans.
Alvina has always had a love for library books, dating back to her high school years at Garrison, where she grew up on a farm. Her father, however, viewed reading as a waste of time.
“My folks didn’t approve of that. So, in high school when we had study hall and you were supposed to do
your studies, I would read library books. When I went home at the end of the day, I would put the library book in my locker and bring all my homework home. After evening chores were done and supper was done, I would do my homework. Sometimes I was up until midnight or later and my folks couldn’t figure it out,” she describes.
“It was more interesting to read than a history book or geography book,” she says of her hidden library books. Alvina persevered and was the first in her family to graduate from high school.
What will Alvina do when she finishes her goal of reading every book in the library?
She’ll start over, she says with a laugh.
“They are all good. I would recommend all of them,” she says with a smile.