My turn: Dear friend worked to save book collection

There's an African proverb that says, "When an old man dies, a library burns down."

It honors the loss of a lifetime of memories, experiences, lessons, and stories.

But for my dear friend, Richard Lambirth, the proverb might need to be rewritten.

Richard died early this month, after a lifetime of seriously collecting books, many reflecting his love of history and the American West.

When he learned more than a year ago that he had a fatal illness, Richard and his wife, Bettye, immediately set about cataloging his vast personal collection, and began looking for future homes for the thousands of volumes he had gleaned from used book stores, flea markets, garage sales, estate auctions, and online sites during numerous decades of treasure hunting.

The first few boxes of carefully-selected books were transferred to Special Collections at ENMU's Golden Library last week, ensuring that some of these precious tomes will have permanent loving care and be available to future generations. More are destined for other libraries and collections in our region.

Richard was a self-appointed caretaker of our history, much of which only exists in the yellowed pages of rare volumes.

Thanks to his foresight, it has not been lost. No, indeed. An old man died and a library was saved.

Betty Williamson considers old books treasures beyond compare. You may reach her at

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