Old Things New Again at the Public Library, 1987

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Old Things New Again at the Public Library, 1987


Tuscaloosa Public Library
Public libraries


An article describing the creation of a room at the Tuscaloosa Public Library dedicated to local history and genealogy.


Tuscaloosa News Archive


January 25, 1987


Tuscaloosa Public Library






Tuscaloosa (AL)


Everything old is new again at the Tuscaloosa Public Library where a special room dedicated to genealogy and local history was established in 1986.

Known for many years as the Matt Clinton Memorial Room in honor of the late local historian, the Local History Room provides a cozy setting and readily-available reference materials for people wishing to unearth their roots.

"In a way, this is a new department for the library," said history room supervisor Glen Johnson. "We've always had a genealogy collections, but this spring the library decided to house the collection separately in the Matt Clinton room."

Approximately 1,500 books about local and state history and genealogy are the mainstay of the room, furnished with glass enclosed book cases, dark paneling, a couch and chairs, tables and chairs, antiques donated by various people and groups and other accoutrements.
"Most of our users are genealogists, but we are seeing more and more people who are interested in local history," said Johnson, who has a bachelor's degree in history and a postgraduate degree in library science.
"I'd like to see more interest in local history research, especially in schools," he said.

Other resources in the new room include many history-oriented books considered "rare" for various reasons, genealogy periodicals, lineage charts and census records on microfilm.

"We have almost-complete census records from Alabama and also some from other Southern states- particularly North Carolina and Virginia because a lot of families in Tuscaloosa came from those two states," Johnson said.

Family researchers may use the library's bound and microfilmed editions of the Tuscaloosa News dating back to about World War I, as well as various other newspapers from the 1800s, he said.

"We also have some of Matt Clinton's writings and some of his lectures on tape which we've only had for about three or four months," he said.

The library plans to be involved in a local effort to compile an oral history of this area, Johnson said.
Along with Shelton State Community College and the West Alabama Planning and Development Council, Tuscaloosa Public Library will help tape-record local people's memories of this area and may even do some videotaping, Johnson said.

The library also provided a community service in 1986 by volunteering its facilities to Project Literacy U.S. (PLUS) , noted library director Jim Price.

Many of the illiterate and semi-literate adults who are receiving help from PLUS meet with their volunteer tutors for reading lessons at the public library.

Other department supervisors at the library reported gains and continued services for 1986.

The library's van service, which delivers books and materials to homebound readers- mainly children and senior citizens- within the city limits of Northport and Tuscaloosa, expanded its route this year, said supervisor Anita Carpenter.

Two retirement communities, Skyland Oaks and Pine Valley, have been added to her route, she said.
Celeste Burnum, chairman of the Friends of the Library, said the support group enjoyed its most lucrative used book sale this year.

The group's September book sale-held annually along with a spring book sale- generated nearly $3,000 for the library, Mrs. Burnum said.

All told, the Friends of the Library raised about $12,000 to purchase new books and equipment for the library in 1986, she said.

The Friends continued to sponsor the popular monthly book review, Books Sandwiched In, and has compiled a leaflet of general information about the library. The leaflet will be distributed through local schools, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and the library, she said.

A new program in the library's audiovisual section is the books on cassette, available to individual library members, said supervisory Sue Paul.
"The books are condensed to two to two-and-a-half hours, and we also have management and organizational books on tape," Mrs. Paul said.

The section also includes a circulating collection of framed art, records, slides and films.
Through its access to the film collection of the Alabama Public Library Service, the Tuscaloosa Public Library loaned 1,000 films to groups in 1986, Mrs. Paul said.
Reference librarian Judy Howington said that collection continued to serve patrons through its regular materials and some not-so-regular items.

In addition to a computer listing of all job openings posted with the state employment agency and other job and college information, the reference department's computer for adults remained popular, Mrs. Howington said.

"We also have access to the North Carolina Foreign Language Center. This year some of the books we ordered for people were in Korean, Russian, French and two dialects of Indian," she said. "We can get just about anything."

With a monthly circulation of about 1,300 check-outs, the Northport branch continued operation at the Northport Civic Center complex on the U.S. Highway 82 bypass, said librarian Valerie Scarritt.

The branch also features a monthly display of local artwork supplied by Kentuck artists.

She said much of the library's work in 1986 centered around services for children and for adults needing remedial help with reading.

The Weaver branch, adjacent to the Benjamin Barnes YMCA also focuses largely on children and adult GED students, said librarian Genevia Southall.
Seasonal serivces are common at the Weaver Branch, which offers speical story hours and reading programs to children enrolled in the nearby YMCA's summer programs. "Most of our clientele are children so we have a large percentage of children's books, and community groups have used the library for reading and tutorial programs.

The Tuscaloosa Public Library's Books-By-Mail program- which mails library materials to people in rural areas, physically handicapped people and others unable to visit the library for various reasons, served, about 5,000 people this year, said supervisor Harriett Lewis.
Talking Books librarian Barbara Jordan, recently appointed to head the Mayor's Council on the Handicapped, said the newest item for hearing and visually impaired readers was a set of talking encyclopedias.

About 100 groups use the library's community rooms for a meeting place. The rooms are available by reservation to any non-profit group which is open to the public.

The children's section of the public library offers hands-on computer training for children on Mondays from 7 to 8 p.m. and on Thursdays from 4 to 5 p.m., said children's librarian Charlotee Gibson. A story hour for pre-schoolers and the library and its branches offer summer reading programs for students.

The Tuscaloosa Public Library at 1801 River Road is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday through Thursday; 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The Northport Branch of the library at the Northport Civic Center is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday; from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and is closed on Sunday.
The Weaver Branch at 2937 18th St. is open from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Monday; from 9 a.m. to noon and from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday; from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday and is closed on Sunday.

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