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Club breathes new life into Rose Memorial Library

It began more than 90 years ago, in a Georgiana house donated by local businessman Thaddeus Rose.

Today, Rose Memorial Library has a new life in its new location, the former VFW/Head Start building on Ebenezer Road. The Three Arts Club of Georgiana and Chapman, the primary supporter of the library, moved the facility into the Ebenezer Road location in June 2019 — and its volunteers have been working ever since to create an inviting facility that will serve the educational and entertainment needs of all ages in their community.

Betsy Waggoner, a retired educator, who taught in both English and history classrooms and later served as librarian and media specialist at McKenzie School for 10 years, was the one tapped to assist the organization in last year’s move to the RML’s new location.

“I had volunteered at the old location of RML for about 10 years after I retired, but I had to stop when my husband became sick,” Waggoner said. “It was a year after my husband died when they approached me to help, so it was good for me to become useful again in a library situation.”

The biggest challenge for Waggoner and the club was the move itself.

Books, after all, are heavy.

“Members of the Three Arts Club, their husbands and community volunteers packed up and moved all those hundreds of books,” Waggoner explained. “Then we realized we needed more shelves when so many people began donating books to help us grow. I can’t name everyone who donated, but the outpouring of support from the community was overwhelming. We finally got everything moved and sorted and shelved, but it’s been a big job that is pretty much on going.”

Rose Memorial Library has, tucked in the corners of its various areas, several boxes of donated books.

“We go through them all. Sometimes we end up with several duplicates of the same books and these we simply give away to patrons who are interested,” Waggoner said, adding, “We never turn any donations away.”

In the library’s main section for young adult and adult readers, numerous shelves, some moved from the old library and others donated or built for the new one, are filled with a variety of fiction and non-fiction works.

The library has its own archives room, with volunteer Margaret Gaston in charge of organizing much of its contents. A number of bound volumes and copies of “The Butler County News” can be found here, along with many books, periodicals and other materials relating to local, state and family history.

“A big boost to our local and state history collection was the donation by Rebecca Terry and the family of Gene Raines, who recently passed away, of his extensive personal historical research of the McKenzie and Georgiana areas,” Waggoner said.

A separate children’s section offers both classic children’s novels such as “Caddie Woodlawn” and “The Secret Garden,” along with  popular new book series like “Pete the Cat.” There’s a comfy wicker chair where someone can read aloud to youngsters and colorful reading-related decorations on the doors and shelves.

“We took one of our monetary donations and purchased this wonderful collection of biographies of famous people to help expand our non-fiction offerings for children,” Waggoner said, as she leafed through the pages of one of the paperback volumes. “These are easy to read, with great illustrations throughout, about inspiring individuals.”

Donations, whether of money, furnishings or supplies, are paramount to the institution.

“Without the Three Arts Club’s support and the City of Georgiana furnishing the building and utilities, we could not have this library,” Waggoner said. “We have no other regular source of funding. We rely on donations, volunteers, and grant money. This year, we received a very generous donation from Alabama Power and also the Butler County Commission. The commission donation allowed us to purchase a computer and printer/copier. We’ve also had a computer donated by Gail and Rickie Piggott. Camellia Communications got us hooked up with the Internet last week.”

Waggoner also lauded retired educator Buddy Manning for assistance in securing several grants for books; the Avant Homemakers Club for a donation to help purchase children’s books; Mason McGowin for a donation, which enabled the library to have more shelves built and Robert Lassiter, who has been constructing shelves for the library.

However, the donation that is the most eye-catching for all who pass near the library or come through its doors are courtesy of one of Georgiana’s newest residents, Michelle Black, A Color Affair muralist.

“Michelle offered to paint a mural on our building’s exterior,” Waggoner said. “It’s a work in progress, but it’s already drawn in patrons.”

The mural, which features a large library sign, cartoon renderings of a train and stacks of classic and contemporary children’s favorites, wraps around the side and front of the building. Still to be added will be camellias, roses and figures of smiling children aboard the train and curled up by the books reading. And don’t be surprised if Butler County’s most famous native son pops up somewhere, along with a surprise Black is keeping under wraps.

“We are beyond amazed at Michelle’s talent,” Waggoner said. “The mural has drawn many people to stop and even have pictures made in front of it.”

Black says she is thoroughly enjoying volunteering her time and talent at the library.

“I saw this wonderful blank canvas,” she said. “It’s been fun to see all the people stop and look while I work.”

Waggoner praises the people who make it happen at Rose Memorial Library.

“Our current volunteers who keep the library open and operating are me, Brenda Gruenewald, Mary Agnes Hicks, LuAnn Wildberger, Lucille Smith, Stephen Betterton, Kathy Bozeman and Margaret Jane Gaston — and we always welcome more volunteers and substitute volunteers,” Waggoner said. “Anyone interested can contact us through Messenger on our Rose Memorial Library Facebook page.”

Waggoner has a wish list for the library, too.

“We would love to get a scanner and monies to purchase up-to-date book for the main library,” she said. “We also need funds for supplies. We are ‘old school’ in that we still use cards for circulation. We don’t have a computer program for collections and circulation, so that might be something we can look to in the future.”

The current members of the Three Arts Club include president Lisa Lowe, Jennifer Coker, Sue Gaston, Brenda Gruenewald, Lynn Nelson, Cynthia Nichols, Lisa Peavy, Julie Schofield, Susan Schofield, Lucille Smith, Debbie Stinson, Vivian Taylor, Mary Agnes Hicks, Earnie Scruggs, Shirley Whittington and Darlene Bass.

Active associate members include Pat Compton, Patricia Ray, Mendy Vickery and Betsy Waggoner and honorary members are Martha Jane Huggins, Margaret Jane Gaston, Betty Gregory, Jimmie Sue Burkett, Kim Harvill, Gena Stephenson and Carolyn Thompson.

“The club has attempted to send thank you notes to all who made donations, including the many generous individuals who donated books,” Waggoner said. “However, we don’t know who donated some because they just appeared on the porch, or were dropped off by someone else. So whoever you are out there, please know you are appreciated.”

It’s clear as she takes you on a tour of the facilities that Waggoner is proud of how far the Rose Memorial Library has come.

“I really am so glad to be working here. I love the library, the people who support it and all its patrons,” she said.

Due to the current concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact most of the volunteers are older and have underlying health conditions, Rose Memorial Library is currently not open to the public.

“We look forward to the day when we can welcome everyone back through its doors. In the meantime, please stop by when you have the opportunity and check out our wonderful ‘A Color Affair’ mural,” Waggoner concluded.