the Sylacauga Public Library was founded in 1936, Alabama was just
climbing out of the Great Depression. Alabama had suffered even
more than many other states, but amazingly the citizens of Sylacauga
were thinking of starting a library. The New Deal was in place,
the state had strong leadership, and in this climate the Sylacauga
Rotary Club and twenty-three civic, church and fraternal organizations
met to talk about "the time being ripe for the creation of a library."
That important initial interest of the clubs, organizations, and
citizens in public library service has continued down to the present
City of Sylacauga immediately supported the new library. They gave
$250.00 startup money, $50.00 per month for operations, and they
appointed an influential board of interested persons to run the
library. The tradition of city support and a good board has been
necessary in the blueprint for the success of this library.
tiny library was moved from place to place, but in 1938, the Works
Progress Administration set up the largest WPA library project in
the state in Sylacauga. At that time, library service was extended
to rural Talladega County, and the tradition of broad, free municipal
library service to citizens outside the city limits was established.
By 1939, a $28,000 WPA grant had built a new building to house the
library. The Comer family gave $5,000 to furnish the library, and
the name was changed from Sylacauga Public Library to B. B. Comer
Memorial Library in memory of the late Governor Comer.
the beginning, the B. B. Comer Library was part of the "big picture"
of the Sylacauga community. Dr. F. H. Craddock was president of
the Chamber of Commerce and the library board. The new library was
dedicated on "March of Progress Day," on November 21, 1939-a day
set aside to celebrate several major happenings in Sylacauga. Thus
the library began as an integral part of the city, and that tradition
1952, Ms. Dorothy Lee, a professional librarian, was hired to direct
Comer Library. She organized and placed the library on a firm foundation.
Even today, many small towns do not have trained librarians, so
Sylacauga began their tradition of hiring competent, trained people
to run Comer Library.
the years passed, the WPA building became inadequate for the free
service that Comer Library provided for a large area. During the
early 1970s, the library director persuaded the city to blueprint
a 21,000-foot building, despite the fact that there was no money
for a building. When the federal funds flowed into the state in
the late 1970s, Sylacauga was ready, and in March of 1979, Comer
Library moved into its present building. Being ready for opportunity
made the difference for a small town that otherwise would not have
qualified for such a spacious building. The federal grant provided
$592,000; the city donated prime downtown property plus $218,314;
and Avondale Mills gave $75,000 for furnishings. No other small
town in Alabama built such a wonderful, spacious library from that
wave of federal money.
fully automated catalog was installed in January of 1996 to
offer speedy, accurate access to the library's holdings. In
January of 1997, the 4-station CD ROM Information Center was
installed. Internet access became a reality in April, 1998
made possible through a grant from the Gates Library Foundation.
Then in June of 2000, Comer Library's catalog became accessible
November, 2002 the library moved to a temporary location at 109
North Broadway Avenue while the main library was being renovated and
expanded. The library reopened December 1, 2003 in an expanded
39,000 ft. library and conference center.
summarize the success of the B. B. Comer Library, the key ingredients
seem to be: citizen and civic involvement; good city support; good
boards given autonomy; mentors from business and industry; generous
service to less fortunate; the library as part of the total community;
high quality employees with vision; planning for the future and
being ready for growth and change.
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