Librarian’s dementia inspires bucket-list moonshot
Janet Eldred and her husband Keith are responding to her early-stage dementia by aiming to raise $1 million for their public library while she can still enjoy the effort and contribute. Janet became director of Hollidaysburg Area Public Library in Pennsylvania in 2004 and will serve until retiring in summer 2022.
This effort builds on Janet’s first decade as director, during which day-to-day she managed a capital campaign for a brand-new $2.8 million facility built under budget and mortgage-free.
Keith left his 29-year corporate career to combine his dream with Janet’s. They want to raise the million by donating all profits from a special line of books that Keith created, combined with direct contributions to the library. All 20 of these books are available on Amazon.
Their project’s title is THIS IS RED, which the Eldreds attribute to several sources:
RED = Reading Every Day, a life essential
RED is the color of passion, including for books
RED is a color of Christmas, a thread running through the 20 books
RED is within “Eldred”
RED is also the title of the longest of the books—the novel Rubrum (Latin for “Red”), released on September 22, 2020, the Eldreds’ 30th wedding anniversary. The Red Button, a novel about Ebenezer Scrooge’s broken engagement, was released one month later. Keith hopes it will create a new tradition among actors playing Scrooge: A red button in one pocket.
Their social media (everywhere @thisisdotred) includes The Daily RED, an image captioned with an acronym spelling “RED.” To date, there are over 650 images. Their web address is literally THIS IS RED: www.thisis.red (not .com), where an email signup offers four of the 20 titles free.
“Janet’s initial diagnosis was in 2012, so the slow progress is fortunate,” Keith says. Janet continues to run the Library along with the accommodating staff and board “and lots of sticky note reminders!” she says. Janet must often navigate not recalling events or visitors, and she takes careful notes of plans and decisions.
When not aiding Janet, Keith works on promoting THIS IS RED.
All project profits go to the library, with no income to the Eldreds. They have far to go. The total to date is $17,048.18. This includes a $10,000 national recognition, the American Library Association Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Facing Adversity, which Janet turned over to the library in full.
“Aside from raising our sons,” Keith says, “Janet and I have done nothing more important than THIS IS RED. It’s a shared calling. My writing is motivated by love for her and our esteem for libraries.”
“We’re doing everything we can to leave the library as sound as possible,” Janet says.
“These are good days, if not easy,” Keith adds. “When you ache to make progress before it’s too late, everything you do matters. Our life is full of meaning.”
This article condenses the story told in our memoir.
Keith and Janet Eldred of THIS IS RED
Previous and current library buildings
Novel released on the Eldred’s 30th wedding anniversary
The project’s prequel to A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Examples of The Daily RED