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story.lead_photo.caption Terry Nunnery, youth programmer at the Esther D. Nixon Library in Jacksonville, shows some of the new toys that will be available for checkout beginning Friday. Liza Wilson of Austin, Texas, whose parents live in Jacksonville, donated the new toys in memory of her late grandmother, Ruth Nita Nixon Wilson, for whom a room in the library is named. The program is called Gran Gran’s Toy Library, and two toys per child may be checked out for up to two weeks. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— When parents bring their children to the Esther D. Nixon Library in Jacksonville, they can not only take home books; they can check out toys, too.

Gran Gran’s Toy Library will have a grand opening Friday at the branch, thanks to a donation from Liza Wilson of Texas. Wilson is a daughter of Mike Wilson of Jacksonville, a lawyer and former state representative, and Shari Coston of Hot Springs.

Cindy Powell, Nixon Library branch manager, said Liza Wilson runs a business called Toybrary Austin, in which she rents educational toys targeted for children ages 6 months to 5 years.

“Since she’s from here in Jacksonville and her family has donated a lot to help us over the years, she thought we we might want to do something like that at no charge,” Powell said. “Mike came over and talked to me about it, and I said, ‘Yeah, it sounds great.’”

The toy collection is donated in honor of the late Ruth Nita Nixon Wilson, a lifelong Jacksonville resident, “library lover, role model and grandmother of nine,” according to a press release. Sammye Wilson, wife of Mike Wilson, said Ruth was Liza Wilson’s grandmother, whom she called Gran Gran.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Sammye Wilson said.

She said Ruth Wilson was a sister-in-law of Esther Dewitt Nixon, for whom the Nixon Library is named. A meeting room is also named for Ruth Wilson, who died in 2005.

Powell said Liza Wilson ordered the new toys and had them sent to the Jacksonville library.

“It’s everything from games to help them learn to count, to help them with shapes; there are costumes, they can dress up like a pirate … a police officer. There are even dance-type costumes. There are little wooden vehicles that look like a ladybug or a little bicycle that little ones can ride. They’re all really quality toys,” Powell said.

The toys are being catalogued and bar codes added to them.

“Our aim was to start with 100 [toys]; I think we’re close to 80,” she said.

The toys will be used in the children’s programming, at 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays for the preschool program and at

10:30 a.m. Fridays for the toddler program. Parents may check out two toys per child and keep them for up to two weeks.

Liza Wilson will show the library employees how to clean the toys with an environmentally friendly, “green” cleaner, Powell said.

Powell said Nate Coulter, executive director of the Central Arkansas Library System, had heard of a similar toy-checkout program in Ohio, but no one she has talked to has heard of one in Arkansas.

“That’s not to say there isn’t one, but I’m not aware of one. I don’t know of anyone in Arkansas doing [a toy checkout],” Powell said.

The grand opening of Gran Gran’s Toy Library will take place during the 10:30 a.m. children’s program and will include music, dancing, refreshments such as popcorn and cotton candy, and more, Powell said.

She said Liza Wilson will be at the grand opening.

For more information, call the Nixon Library, 703 W. Main St., at (501) 457-5038.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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