North Carolina Shell Club members donate more than 700 books to Ocracoke Library. They are, from left, Amy Howard, Everett Long, Dora Zimmerman, club president, and Bill Bennight. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Connie Leinbach

The North Carolina Shell Club, though enamored of shells, is equally interested in books.

Books were something they could help Ocracoke Island regain after the devastating flooding from Hurricane Dorian Sept. 6.

Members of the club, on a rainy Saturday in June, brought carloads of 748 books to help restock the Ocracoke Community Library, which Dorian flooded last September.

Sundae Horn, library manager, said 1,400 books were flooded and about 800 of those were children’s books.

“Most of the books lost were in the children’s section because those were lowest to the ground,” Horn said one recent Saturday while Shell Club members loaded boxes of books into the Deepwater Theater storage area.  “Most of the collection that survived is in storage tractor trailers over on the mainland, and I won’t get those back until we reopen.”

Of the books the shell club members brought, 673 are children’s books and 65 are adult books.

The library is in Deepwater Theater temporarily and is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Each March, the Shell Club holds its spring meeting on Ocracoke where members comb both the Ocracoke and Portsmouth Island beaches for their treasures.

Summer reading programs will be both virtual and in-person.

In the evenings, they gather for a meal, a presentation about shells or a related topic, and conduct an auction of shells, which helps fund scholarships or other activities.

This year, they canceled their meeting due to COVID-19. While they planned to donate proceeds of the auction to Dorian relief on the island, they will do that at another time.

Right after the hurricane last September, the club had sent some tubs of supplies but wanted to help further.

They put an email out to the whole club, said Dora Zimmerman, club president during the group’s visit. 

“And between money donations, and book donations, we were able to have between all of those two things over $2,500 in value,” she said.

Horn noted that all books in the Magic Treehouse series were destroyed.

This is an early reader series, and Everett Long, a club member and former president, said one member’s donation in honor of his late wife paid for the whole set, which numbers between 80 and 100 books, including companion books.

The Shell Club’s gift will not wholly restore the library.

The library had about 8,000 items pre-Dorian, including books, audiobooks, DVDs, VHS tapes, records, and teacher resource books and DVDs.

In addition to the 1,400 books lost outright, the library lost 400 more to mildew while they were in storage, Horn said.

“I weeded another 200 more while going through what was salvaged,” she said. “I expect to lose more to mildew when we finally get them all back.

All the minutes from county and local meetings through the years in the North Carolina Room were lost, also craft supplies, decorations, all the furniture and shelving and computer equipment.

Insurance will cover some of the content replacement.

The Ocracoke Community Library is temporarily in the Deepwater Theater on School Road. Photo: C. Leinbach
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