Zoe Rhine, Influencing Local History

HeardTell followers will have a surprise when they pick up the Nov. 30, 2016  issue of Mountain Express.  The cover story trumpets the inclusion of the Influential Eight, “some of those lesser-known folks who are quietly doing important work in the Asheville area.” Among those eight is North Carolina librarian Zoe Rhine.  Read it and you will know her as your Asheville history expert and as your friend.

Librarian Zoe Rhine with her pot belly pig Frieda, her dog Moses and her mother in the background at 37 Biltmore Avenue, where she lived in a studio apartment, taken circa 1990.

Zoe first came to Pack Memorial Library in 1987.  She worked as a library substitute for a year, left for full-time work elsewhere, continued her education,  then returned in 1993 to sub some more.  I was Head of the Reference Department, and the library’s years-long project to preserve local history material was just starting.  I hired Zoe to be our first part-time NC preservation clerk, processing fragile materials to archival standards.  When a fulll-time librarian job came open in 1994, it was hers.  Over the years, she has been studying the many photos, books, and articles held in the NC Room while seeking out new materials to add to the collection.  She has an inquiring mind.  If she reads that there were two hotels in town and one of them was called the Eagle, she will start digging to find out what the other one was.  She is inclusive in her views.  Much of the information in the NC Room’s vertical files was clipped from Asheville’s daily newspapers, reflecting the values of a time during which white businessmen dominated the news.  There was a scarcity of material covering the activities of African Americans, or women, or rural Buncombe County residents, or any minority group.  During the past few years, Zoe has stepped out from behind the NC Desk to concentrate on planning public programs that aim to help fill those gaps.  Programs about Jewish businesses and the local gay community are examples.  I believe it is common for history readers to choose to study an era that is long gone, overlooking the more recent past.  Zoe understands that recent history needs to be preserved while it’s still fresh in memory.  She organized a series of programs about Asheville in the 1980s that featured panelists who were part of the movements that shaped the city we know today.  These popular programs packed Lord Auditorium, and I suspect that many HeardTell readers attended at least one of them.

Outside Pack Memorial Library, Zoe is a farmer at heart.  She treks to her barn early on these dark, December mornings to milk goats, then spends weekend days making cheese.  During summer, she tends her vegetable garden.  Zoe herself will tell you about this and more when you follow the link below to learn more about this one of the Influential Eight:
Photograph taken by Emma Grace Moon for “Mountain Xpress” publication November 30, 2016.

Click here to read “Xpress presents: Asheville’s eight influentials for 2016 — Zoe Rhine.”

Blog post by Laura Gaskin,
Retired Librarian and Volunteer

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