Libraries still fostering communities

Published 12:50 pm Sunday, May 7, 2023

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Small town residents usually know their local library provides resources for reading or listening to literature. Some may also be familiar with the library’s offerings for research, movies, and online e-books or genealogy programs.

But I wonder how many people know that libraries have, from their inception, been advocates for fostering communities, a function the facilities still provide today.

The Greenville-Butler County Library fosters communities in a variety of ways, by hosting events like its April 29 Book Festival, a time when children of all ages can visit the library, purchase books, enjoy activities and inflatables, and meet their favorite local authors. Attendees took part in face painting, jumped in the bouncy house, and sampled food from local restaurants and food trucks.

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And, in Lowndes County, commissioners learned at their April 24 meeting that the Hayneville Public Library had invited them to visit the facility to observe National Library Week. The library also houses an Alabama Room – a space where residents can discover the county’s history and conduct research into their own ancestral roots.

The Luverne Public Library hosts weekly and monthly activities, some produced by library staff and others hosted by the facility for outside groups like the Crenshaw County Extension Office. From the smallest patrons who attend weekly “Mommy and Me” events, to senior citizens who participate in the “Kids and Kin” program to gain resources for parenting another family member’s children, Crenshaw County residents can choose from a variety of group activities hosted by the library and discover there’s something for everyone.

As a child growing up in South Montgomery County, the Ramer Branch of the Montgomery County Library felt like the most important place in my world. I eagerly awaited the summer reading program each year, a time when I enjoyed a weekly activity and attended many end-of-summer parties for reading a number of age-appropriate books.

Then later, some of my happiest moments as a young mother were found in taking my daughters to that same library, where I watched them fall in love with reading as I had done many years earlier.

My granddaughter Caroline follows in our footsteps now, toddling around the Luverne Library and pointing out Pete the cat on the library mural.

Many small town libraries began with a librarian who delivered books to rural communities. In our neighborhood, we had a book mobile first and a library later.

A popular novel, “The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek” by Kim Richardson, describes how young women first began delivering books on horseback to remote patrons in the Kentucky hills. Those librarians fostered the first adult reading programs which later took root in nearby one-room schoolhouses.

From the early days, rural library efforts have fostered community, facilitated teaching, provided resources, conducted activities, and inspired neighborhood events.

It warms my heart to see the efforts continue and to know my little Caroline will enjoy them, as her mommy and I did, for many years to come.