Sharing Some Library Love

McD first library

This was the first library in my home town of McDonough. I don’t know when it was built, but vaguely remember visiting it when I was really small — dim lighting, creaky wide plank floors, the musty smell of books. At that time the librarian was one of my great-great aunts on my mom’s side of the family. Today it’s in Heritage Park on the outskirts of town with several other historic county buildings.

I saw on a list of February holidays and observances that this is Library Lovers Month! Yay, I love libraries because they have all those books! And people who know how to help you find just what you’re looking for instead of wading through a zillion search results on Google.

My mom used to take my sister and me to the local library on a weekly basis, sometimes even more in the summer. I loved walking into that hushed place full of stories just waiting to be discovered.

So, in honor of Library Lovers Month, here are a few important dates that got Georgia’s libraries off the ground and moving toward where they are today.

  • 1809 – Savannah Library Society opens a subscription library where members of the society pay a fee for use of the library. The fees collected go toward the operation and maintenance of the library.
  • 1837 – The General Assembly establishes the Georgia State Library from the Georgia Supreme Court’s collection of books
  • 1874-1882 – Subscription libraries open in Macon, Valdosta, Americus, and Brooks County
  • 1889 – The Mary Willis Free Library – the first free public library in Georgia – opens in Washington. It’s funded by Dr. Francis T. Willis and named for his only daughter.
  • 1893-1917 – Andrew Carnegie, through his library program, donates funds to build free public library buildings across the United States. Carnegie libraries were built in many Georgia cities during this time, including Atlanta, Albany, Columbus, Dublin, Montezuma, Moultrie, Newnan, Pelham, Savannah, Cordele, Americus, Dawson and Fitzgerald.
  • 1897 – The General Assembly establishes the Georgia Library Commission to oversee all libraries in the state. Georgia was the first Southern state to act on their citizens’ need for free public library service.
    1924-1925 – The Georgia Library Commission conducts a Vacation Reading Club for rural children from first grade through high school. Was this the first Summer Reading Program like I loved so much (and had my kids do for years)?
    1938 – The first bookmobile service is introduced in Thomas County as a WPA (Works Projects Administration) demonstration project.
probate court

A new McDonough library opened in 1973, and it’s the one I remember from my growing-up years. Today it houses the county probate court offices.

There are lots of other steps along the way to where our libraries are now, but I won’t get into all of those here. 🙂 The latest statistics I found for Georgia libraries were from 2008, which included:

 

  • Georgia currently has 59 library systems serving all 159 counties with 385 service outlets and 20 bookmobiles.
  • We have 33 regional library systems providing library service to 133 counties, and 26 single-county library systems.
  • 48 library systems with 275 service outlets are part of the PINES network (which began in 2004), providing a borderless library for Georgians with a free PINES library card.
McD library today

The McDonough library (and county administrative offices) today. Some of the books I loved as a kid are still on the shelves!

So, maybe we can all try to visit a library in the next couple of weeks to celebrate Library Lovers Month. I’m sure they would appreciate it!

Your turn: What do you love most about libraries? What was your favorite thing about visiting the library as a child? Or, what do you enjoy about going there as an adult?

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Historical Monday, Historical research | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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