Yes, it has been four full years since I retired! And by sheer coincidence the first branch library that I had built while director, one that was built back in 1999, was celebrating the extension of their hours from 28 hours and open five days per week to 42 hours and open six days per week on Thursday…and I decided to attend and surprise them (although some of the staff knew I was coming). A small crowd of twenty-five to thirty people turned out for the 9 am ribbon cutting, seen above. Back in 1999 Redfield had a population of around 1,100 people to today’s population estimated at over 1,500…with plans to build another 100+ homes in the next two years. Now that is in the city limits…if one was to draw a circle 10 miles around the library, the population would be over 3,000, in my opinion. It was nice to see a number of my board members, who really were my bosses in a real sense, including Robert (bottom right) who was also in my Rotary Club, is also a Reverend, and just happened to marry Marcia and I and the sole witness of that blessed event. The lady with blond/while hair in the forefront is Linda Banks…but for me it is hard to forget the name of Johnson that I knew her by the most. Linda is the one who was the driving force for a library to built in Redfield, and helped carry the crucial vote back in 1996 to raise the property taxes by a mere $8 per year per household and a one time $12 tax for one year. That vote carried by less than 20 votes…but it carried. At the ribbon is the two library staff members, Cathy and Mica, and two guys, Conley Byrd, a large animal Vet and a Justice of the Peace, and Redfield’s Mayor, Harmon Carter, who when I first met him he was a general road and maintenance worker for the city. He is actually the person who, back in 1996 when the land was donated, cleared off the weeds and brush from the lot.
Picture left is the circulation area, if Cathy and Mica look alike, it is because they are mother and daughter. Cathy was hired back in 1999 as the assistant to the Branch Manager, Patsy Johnson (no relation to the board member Linda mentioned earlier). I served on the White Hall Chamber of Commerce with Patsy for many years, including the year I served as President. Patsy passed away about a year ago, she was around 80 years old. I had hired Mica a year or two before I retired, and now her mother Cathy is the Branch Manager, and she is the assistant. Pictured right is a portion of the Library. When built, the far wall (one without windows) was made to be taken down, and the library could be expanded by twice its current size. They have another tax vote before the public this November to do just that…costing the average household about $4 more per year for a few years until the bonds they would sell were paid off. I wish them luck.
The Library was named after Leenita Gober Cothran (Yes, the plaque has her name spelled wrong…I wonder ‘who’ did that back in 1999???) Her family donated the land with the stipulation that the library contain her name. Had this library not been named after her, when the Library Board decided to name a library in my honor, I would have chosen this library because it was my first branch that I built. A sister branch, looking just like this one, is located in Altheimer. When I arrived back in 1991, there was a main library, and two branches and a bookmobile. When I left, there was a Main Library and four branches, and our service hours had expanded by around 70%, and the public computers available to the public went from four to over 40, with free Wi-Fi available at all locations 24 hours per day (you can park in the parking lot and get on the Wi-Fi.)
The Library Board did name a branch after me, and it was quite an honor. For some reason, the person who worded this plaque got everything spelled right! (must be because he had be spelling this name for some 50+ years by then!) I dropped by the library to say hi to one of my favorite staff members….
This is Shay, above. I can’t remember what year I hired her, but it has been 10-12 years by now. She worked at the Main Library for most of the years that she worked for me, and when the Branch Manager position opened up at the Watson Chapel Library in Pine Bluff just before I left, she was promoted to that position. When the board named the library in honor of my service, I was glad Shay was the Branch Manager. That look on her face is the look of, “Dave, you KNOW I don’t like my picture taken!”
Above is the inside of the library…with the adult book section and adult computer in the picture left, and the circulation desk and children’s area picture right. “IF” the library election in Pine Bluff passes this November, which includes the building of a new Main Library, it will also double the size of this library. This vote is for much more money, about $25 per household I believe, and the length of the bond would be much longer. The Main Library was built in 1965 time period, and is part of the City Hall complex, and the building leaks, and there is mold, and there is a huge need for a new Main Library. The library named after me has needed expansion for a number of years now…back in the year 2000 I was able to refurbish it where we knocked down an inner wall, filled in a reading pit, and put in new carpet, painted walls, and expanded the computers to eight (four for adults, four for children).
To round out my day on Thursday, I attended my Rotary Club meeting in Pine Bluff. Robert (pictured in first Library picture) is the club president this year…I think this is his second or third time being President…and pictured with him is Club Secretary Gary Kelley (sitting at head table), Roy (standing facing head table) and Joe, who was sitting next to me. Joe is a true professional cameraman…and he faithfully has followed my blog and from time to time will send me an email. It was nice seeing the members who were there, but unfortunately, Tuesday was a joint meeting with the other Rotary Club in town, so many were not there. I served as President of the Club about the same time I was President of the White Hall Chamber, and at the same time I was trying to (and did) get the Library Tax passed back in the summer of 1996. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I got everything done that I did.
On my way out of town, I stopped by to see the oldest Library staff member that I had working for me, Jeannine. I did not take any pictures, since I met her at her house…she retired about a year ago. Today she is in her early 80’s, but back in 1991 she was working the circulation desk at the Main Library. In early 1993 she quit, but when I became the new Library Director in August, she decided to come back to work again, and she was one of two Circulation Managers for most of the rest of my Library career. She was a former “Ma Bell” employee way back when, as was her younger sister Wanda…who also was working for the Library when I first started, but had quit about a year before her sister, and came back to work for me about a year after her sister did. Wanda, who was always a part-time staff member, was working at the Main Library on this day, and I did not have the time to visit there, or to the other two branches. It was nice to see and visit with old friends and colleagues…I wish them all well, and look forward to Saturday evening when Marcia and I will have dinner with a very good friend from the library and her husband who we have not seen for about a year now.