Library celebrates 35 years of service

Once upon a time in a land not too far away, the residents of a small community worked together and raised enough money to establish a place to learn, to find fulfillment and to let their imaginations wander amongst the pages of books.

All those things became reality 35 years ago last week when the residents of Winslow rallied to build a public library.

On Saturday, the library hosted its own birthday party.

The celebration began with a speech from Doris Tyler.

Tyler was the chairman of the Community Improvement Project in 1967-68. The committee was the driving force behind establishing the library.

“There are projects whose time had come and that’s what we had here,” she said.

The library opened Aug. 13, 1969 and was originally named the Roxanne Whipple Memorial Library after the 7-year-old girl who was struck by a car and killed in 1966.

To ensure the doors would open, the Winslow Junior Women’s Club went door-to-door asking for $100 donations to fund the library. As many as 90 people contributed the total, which was a significant sum in those days.

The Whipple family made the largest donation of money and books.

The city changed the name to the Winslow Public Library in 2002, a sign of the changing times.

Over the years, the library has changed in nearly every way. It has expanded in physical size and in usage.

The circulation of volumes has risen steadily over the past five years. In this past fiscal year, more than 40,000 items were checked out.

It is fully automated and linked with other county libraries. It has been providing Internet access for five years as well.

There was a time when it looked as if the public library wasn’t going to make it past 30 years.

In the mid-1990s, the city was faced with trimming the budget. It looked as if the library was going to be forced to close.

Ten years ago, the Friends of the Library was formed by community residents who felt Winslow must have a public library. Started with just a handful of concerned citizens, the organization now counts about 200 members.

The non-profit group saved the library from becoming a victim of budget cuts in 1996 and continues to support the library today through book sales and fundraisers.

Club President Lael Tennyson said the library has been an important part of the community by offering residents access to affordable knowledge.

“The library has improved access to a lot of information for a lot of people,” she said.

The Winslow library has reached beyond city limits and helped other people as well.

Librarian Docia Blalock said many of the people who use the library’s Internet access are visitors who need to check their e-mails or keep in touch with others back home.

“People come in to ask about the city,” she added. “We point them to things to see and do in Winslow.”

Although each of the public schools has its own library, many kids use the public one to supplement their education.

“Kids start reading something in school and they come here to see what else we have,” Dottie Patch said.

Patch, the children’s librarian, said the most popular books for kids are the graphic novels. Much like comic books but thicker, graphic novels offer compelling stories with bright, lush pictures.

For adults, John Grisham continues to be a big draw with his whodunits being checked out more than 40 times a year.

On Saturday, dozens of kids and adults enjoyed cake and punch at the birthday.

The only hitch to the celebration was that the computer system was not working. Two days earlier a lightning bolt struck the library’s satellite dish knocking out the system.

The future looks more stable for the library.

Tennyson said the city has allocated about 9,000 square feet, double the library’s current size, in the new city administration building on Third Street.

However, the move is still years away since the building is undergoing reconstruction for the police and city administration.

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