Rising at 4 a.m., Alberta Comer runs.
With every mile she strides, she proves doctors wrong. With every step around the Indiana State University campus, she proves that children raised in rural, poverty-stricken areas can succeed.
Indiana State University officials recently tapped Comer to serve as dean of ISU’s Cunningham Memorial Library.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be dean,” she said, referring to when she started working in libraries years ago.
Libraries weren’t part of the world she grew up in eastern Oklahoma, the daughter of Cherokee and Choctaw farmers.
“It’s very rural and extremely poor, I mean extremely poor,” she said. “There were no local libraries.”
Instead, a mobile library rolled into a nearby community once a month.
“My father, it was a great sacrifice on his part, would take me to the bookmobile to check out books,” she said.
They would make the six-mile, 30-minute drive across the reddish dirt roads where Comer would enter a new world with each visit.
“I can remember going into that bookmobile, smelling those books, you know that smell you get in libraries, the feel of books, the look of the books, and just being overwhelmed every time I walked into it,” she said. “Every time I walked into it, it was a new experience. I would think, ‘I just can’t believe how lucky I am to do this.’ Then I would check out my books and go home and that was it.”
For the only child, not only were books companions, they provided entertainment and education.
“We had no TV. We had no telephone. We had no indoor bathroom,” she said. “Growing up in a very, very poor area and my parents being farmers, my only way out was through books.”
Comer became involved with her first library in high school when her English teacher decided to establish one for the school.
“She asked me to set it up. We’re talking maybe 100 books, maybe if that many,” she said. “I got to catalog the books; my cataloging was who was the author and what was the title. I got to tell all the other students how to put them on the shelf. I just found it fascinating. The world of books and that organization of knowledge fascinated me since I was a child going into the bookmobile.”
Since then Comer has worked in public, academic and special libraries, including her daughters’ Lisa and Ami’s school libraries. She’s worked in almost every department within a library from checking out books to answering reference questions. She’s earned degrees in general studies and library science.
“Libraries are just very special to me,” she said. “The ability to read a book and go someplace else like when I was child I went to places I didn’t even know existed until I read that book.”
Now after six years at Indiana State, she oversees not only the research materials for the academic institution, but also the literature and media that provide relaxation and enjoyment.
“I just feel absolutely so honored to be part of the ISU community and family and to be a part of this library,” she said. “Better than being dean is just to be a part of this library. This is the best group of people. They will go so far out of their way to make sure the patrons get the help that they need.”
In getting that help, Comer said library officials are considering obtaining new technology at the library, including a self-service checkout and a microfilm reader that would allow printing of numerous pages at one time.
“Many libraries are technology-driven. The technology drives what they offer,” she said. “We want to be the other way around. We want to have things we offer and have technology help us do that. We don’t want technology telling us how to serve our customers or our patrons. We want our patrons to tell us what they need and us finding technology or the people power to provide that.”
The library recently responded to the request of students for additional hours by staying open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Tuesday. Also, during finals week, the library served a hot breakfast to studying students.
“We have a large number of people come in and use the library,” she said. “That’s a trend you don’t see at other libraries. A lot of people tend to use them at a distance. We’ve tried to make the library like our motto says – the campus living room.”
Creating a relaxing atmosphere included adding a coffee shop near the entrance and overstuffed chairs throughout the building. The first floor also features an activity area where groups from all over campus hold programs.
“I personally think it’s good for students to be with each other, not to be alone in their rooms but to get out and socialize and do their academic research,” Comer said. “Students often grow up having the TV on in the background and brothers or sisters talking and that’s what they feel comfortable with. Then those who want it very quiet have other floors.”
As dedicated as Comer is to books, a new passion has also become part of her life. Four days a week, Comer steps on the treadmill to run 10 to 13 miles. Her focus and dedication are evident in her running and training for mini-marathons, regardless of outside conditions or physical health.
While on vacation in Alaska two years ago, Comer ran mile after mile as her husband, John, drove slowly alongside her as she ran, a necessary precaution because of bears in the area.
“My husband’s driving really slowly along the road so just in case there are any bears I can jump in the car. It started sleeting so I’m running in the sleet and rain going uphill,” she said with a laugh about her hardest run.
Comer also had a broken rib as she kept her stride on the road. In the warm car, her husband shook his head.
With the date looming for Bloomington’s second mini-marathon, Comer still had the broken rib and had caught pneumonia.
“I had trained for a year,” she said. “I asked my doctor ‘Am I going to hurt myself or am I going to cause further damage?’ He said no.”
She ran and beat her previous year’s time by a mile a minute.
Comer took up running five years ago to strengthen her bones. In the beginning, she could barely run a block. Then three years ago, she decided to challenge herself and began training for the half marathons.
“I’m not a runner. It’s not like I say woo, woo, woo, let me run,” she said.
Yet, when she laces up her running shoes and falls into a steady rhythm there is a sense of triumph.
“When I was born I had a lot of problems with my legs. My parents were told I would never walk,” she said. Doctors wanted to try experimental treatment, but her parents said no.
Instead, she wore braces on her legs.
“I take great joy in the fact that I can walk and run, especially since my parents were told that I couldn’t,” she said.
Rising at 4 a.m., Alberta Comer runs.
- Indiana State University
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge
When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
Clock problems delay start of Indiana State semifinal game
Time stood still in Scottrade Center on Saturday.
Not by design.
Sycamores advance to Arch Madness title game
No one said advancing to the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament championship game was going to be easy.
ISU women grab share of MVC regular-season title
The preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite lived up to its expectations, as the Indiana State women’s basketball team grabbed a piece of the regular-season title with an 85-72 triumph over host Northern Iowa on Saturday afternoon inside McLeod Center.
ISU headed to MVC title game
Indiana State defeated Southern Illinois 62-59 on Saturday to advance to Arch Madness championship game.
Ramblin’ On: Sycamores use defensive stops to reach Missouri Valley semifinals
It sounds counter-intuitive, but to go forward in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament you must first get stops. In Friday’s MVC Tournament quarterfinal against Loyola, ISU followed that bit of zen to a tee. The Sycamores never let the Ramblers get comfortable offensively and put a hammer-lock on Loyola standout Milton Doyle. ISU rode its defense to an easy 75-62 victory at Scottrade Center.
ISU baseball looking to carry success home
Indiana State had pitching questions coming into the season, having lost its entire starting staff from a year ago.
So far anyway, those questions have been answered. The Sycamores are 9-1 going into their home opener today against Western Illinois.
Metro sports: Rose-Hulman picks up baseball win
A late run in the eighth-inning broke a 4-all tie and proved to be the game winner for Rockford College in a 5-4 decision over the Rose-Hulman baseball team Friday at the Chain of Lakes Complex.
Sycamores rejuvenated heading into MVC Tournament quarterfinals
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is sick-and-tired of being sick and tired.
He’s tired of hearing about the team’s three-game losing streak. He’s tired of the Sycamores playing below par. He’s tired of the team not fulfilling its potential.
He plans to do something about it this weekend. Second-seeded ISU begins its Missouri Valley Conference Tournament trek at 7:05 p.m. tonight against either No. 10 Loyola.
ISU women seek top MVC seed
Defense and rebounding are the staples of Teri Moren’s fourth Indiana State team, a squad that hits the road trying to defend and rebound its way to a regular-season conference title. The Sycamores women’s basketball can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference with wins tonight against Drake and Saturday against Northern Iowa.
ISU reserve Smith earns two MVC honors
Indiana State sophomore Khristian Smith has been named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Bench and Most Improved Teams, according to an announcement by the league office Wednesday.
Two Sycamores with Scott during Saturday incident
A Vigo County’s Sheriff’s case report of Brenton Scott’s arrest last Saturday indicated that Scott, an Indiana State basketball player, tried to pass himself off as his twin brother and that two of his teammates were with him at the time of the incident.
Metro Sports: Sycamores to be represented at NCAA indoors
Three members of the Indiana State track and field team will compete in the 2014 NCAA indoor championships March 14-15 at Albuquerque, N.M. Senior Greggmar Swift will represent the men, while sophomore Katie Wise and senior Mary Theisen will represent the women.
Odum, Smith, Arop recognized by MVC
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum doesn’t play baseball, but he did go 4-for-4 in his Sycamore career.
His 4-for-4 performance came in regards to his All-Missouri Valley Conference selections. Odum has been named to the all-MVC team in each of his four seasons, and for the second time in a year, Odum was named to the MVC’s first team.
Teammate Khristian Smith also received a major individual honor. Smith, a sophomore, earned the MVC’s Sixth Man Award. Senior Manny Arop also was named as an All-MVC honorable-mention selection.
ISU’s Odum earns first-team All-MVC honors
ST. LOUIS —Indiana State guard Jake Odum earned a spot on the 2014 All-Missouri Valley Conference first team, which was announced today as the Sycamores prepare for this week’s MVC men’s basketball tournament.
Metro: No ISU baseball today; home opener now Friday
Indiana State’s baseball home opener that was to be played today has been pushed back, according to Sycamore head coach Mitch Hannahs.
ISU's Scott booked for OWI, possession
Indiana State men's basketball player Brenton Scott was booked into the Vigo County Jail on Saturday for operating while intoxicated, possession of marijuana/hash, possession of paraphenalia and false reporting/informing.
Senior Day Success
Indiana State shot just 35 percent from the field Sunday in Hulman Center compared with 46 percent for the visiting Bradley women, but that was almost a good thing.
ISU teams sweep titles in indoor track
Indiana State’s track teams swept the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships on Sunday at Northern Iowa, the men leading all the way and the women surviving a three-way battle.
Odum can't get roll on game-winning attempt on Senior Day
The storybook was ready to be opened at Hulman Center on Saturday.
Down two with 4.5 seconds to go, Indiana State rebounded a free throw miss by Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. ISU senior point guard Odum timed his dash perfectly up the floor. He released his shot from just behind the 3-point line at just the right second. The shot was true and online.
TODD GOLDEN: Lansing's belief in his team has not wavered
In the wake of Indiana State’s 71-69 loss to Northern Iowa on Saturday, and the three-game losing streak that comes with it, ISU coach Greg Lansing wanted to get one point across crystal clear in his postgame press conference.
Red-hot ISU baseball wins eighth straight game
Indiana State broke away from a tight ballgame with four runs in the fifth inning and went on to post their eighth-straight victory of the 2014 campaign with a 10-3 triumph over New Orleans Saturday.
David Stagg (3-0) was the winning pitcher for the Sycamores as he went seven innings. He allowed two runs, scattered nine hits and struck out eight.
ISU men’s track leading in MVC indoor championships
Indiana State’s men’s track and field team took the lead Saturday after the first day of the Missouri Valley Conference indoor championships Saturday at Northern Iowa, while the Sycamore women were second.
Seeking their second straight championship, the Sycamore men have 64 points to 37 for Illinois State. Indiana State’s women are just two points behind Southern Illinois, 50-48.
Rolling along: Third straight victory helps Sycamores tie for second in MVC
Aside from Teri Moren sticking with her pink Chuck Taylor shoes on the sideline for superstitious reasons, Indiana State’s three-game winning streak can be explained by strong play in nearly every aspect of the game.
Sycamores stay positive in face of adversity
After Indiana State’s 77-59 loss at Illinois State on Wednesday, ISU players had an idea of how the tone of Thursday and Friday’s practices would be prior to today’s regular-season finale against Northern Iowa.
Metro: ISU softball win streak reaches 6
Indiana State improved its college softball winning streak to six games Friday by beating Wright State 4-3 and IUPUI 3-2 on the opening day of the Holiday Inn Hilltopper Classic.
Odum's final chapter is here; how will he author the ending?
If you compare a college basketball career to a book, Indiana State point guard Jake Odum has been a page-turner from day one.
Odum has dazzled ISU fans from the time he became a starter during the first weekend of his first season in 2010. The Sycamores have not had a losing season during the Odum era, a run of success unprecedented in ISU’s Division I history.
VIDEO: Indiana State women looking to add to winning streak at home
Indiana State looks to put a three-game winning streak together tonight against Loyola, who topped the Sycamores behind 30 points by senior forward Troy Hambric for one of the Ramblers’ nine wins this season.
The Sycamores’ women’s basketball team stifled Missouri State last Friday and knocked off first-place Wichita State on Sunday for a pair of road wins last weekend. They'll look to build upon that momentum tonight at home.
Mayor Bennett takes students’ questions
Mayor Duke Bennett fielded some tough, thoughtful questions on topics that included potholes, neighborhood safety, abandoned homes and railroads Thursday.
Metro roundup: ISU track ready for MVC indoors
The Indiana State track and field teams will head to Cedar Falls, Iowa, this weekend for the Missouri Valley Conference indoor championships.
The men are defending champions and the women were runners-up a year ago.
- More Indiana State University Headlines
- FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge